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HALL OF FAMEon 21 August 2010
Is it a murder mystery? Is it a police procedural? Is it a back-stage look at seedy French music halls? Quai des Orfevres is all of these, but more than anything else it's an amusing comedy of infidelity, jealousy and love, set in post-WWII Paris. It may be surprising that Henri-Georges Clouzot, the director of such grim films as Le Corbeau or such suspenseful nail-biters as Diabolique and The Wages of Fear, is the director of this one. Clouzot, however, was a shrewd film-maker. "In a murder mystery," he tells us, 'there's an element of playfulness. It's never totally realistic. In this I share Hitchcock's view, which says, 'A murder mystery is a slice of cake with raisins and candied fruit, and if you deny yourself this, you might as well film a documentary.'" Quai des Orfevres is a wonderful film, and it's no documentary.

Jenny Martineau (Suzy Delair) is an ambitious singer at music halls and supper clubs. She's a flirt, she's sees nothing too wrong with using a bit of sex as well as talent to get a contract. Her stage name is Jenny Latour. And she really loves her husband, Maurice Martineau (Bernard Blier). Martineau is something of a sad sack. He's her accompanist and arranger. He's a bit balding, a bit chubby and jealous to a fault. Then we have their neighbor, the photographer Dora Monnier (Simone Renant). She's blond, gorgeous (think of Rita Hayworth) and capable. She and Martineau have been friends since they were children together. Dora, however, is definitely not thinking just of friendship when she looks at Jenny. Then comes along Georges Brignon (Charles Dullin), a wizened, rich and dirty old man, who often has Dora take "art" photographs of his young female proteges whom he poses himself. He offers a contract for a film to Jenny, and suggests a dinner at his home to discuss the details. Jenny is more than willing. Maurice is furious and forbids it. Jenny shouts right back at him, "You're jealous of the rich! Well, I want my share of their dough. I'm all for royalty!" "You're dad was a laborer," Maurice shouts back. "So what? Under Louis XV, I'd have been Madame de Pompadour! I'd have heated up their tights!"

And after Brignon is found dead with a smashed champagne bottle next to his bleeding skull, there's Dora to try to make things safe for Jenny. But wait. Inspector Antoine gets the case. Antoine (Louis Jouvet) is a tall, tired, middle-aged bachelor with sore feet. He has seen it all. He served in "the colonies" with the Foreign Legion and returned with an adopted baby and malaria. The child is now about eight-years old and Antoine dotes on him. One of the first things Antoine discovers is not only did someone brain Brignon with a bottle, someone shot him in the heart. Who did it? Before long Jenny, Maurice and Dora all are making up alibis, lying and, at one or another point, confessing. How will Antoine discover the murderer? Will we have a chance to see some great music hall songs sung by Jenny Latour? Everything becomes clear, but only with time and Detective Antoine's persistence. We are left with many kinds of love leading to all kinds of motives, from hair-trigger jealousy to longing glances...and all played with a nice mixture of Gallic amusement.

Clouzot takes us to a Paris of seedy but not threatening neighborhoods, to downtrodden music publishers where tunes are played on the piano for buyers, to restaurants with discrete private dining rooms. Most of all, he takes us to the music hall where Jenny Latour often performs. We can see Jenny as she sings, with couples in the seats and single men wearing their coats and hats in standing room. And everyone smokes. The first third of the film, in fact, takes place largely in this milieu. With Jenny singing about "Her petite tra-la-la, her sweet tra-la-la," we follow her from trying out the song at the publishers to a rehearsal to a saucy performance with Jenny in a feathered hat, a corset, gartered stockings and not much else.

Delair, Blier and Renant all do wonderful jobs, but it Louis Jouvet who holds everything together. He was a marvelous actor who disliked making films. The stage was his world, and he took on films only if he happened to like the director and to make money to finance his stage work. Jouvet was tall with a long face and broad cheekbones. He was not conventionally handsome but he had what it takes to dominate a scene. For a look at how skillfully he could play comedy, watch him in Drole de Drame. He's a fascinating actor. At one point he says, "I've taken a liking to you, Miss Dora Monnier." "Me?" she asks. "Yes. Because you and I are two of a kind. When it comes to women, we'll never have a chance." Jouvet brings all kinds of nuances to that line, from rueful regret to a gentle amusement.

I can't speak for this Optimum release in terms of transfer clarity but I've had good luck with others of theirs. The region 1 transfer from Criterion is excellent. At the price Amazon is offering this for, it's well worth a gamble.
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on 1 October 2010
This film is not only very good, but for me is very sympathetic. The cold, the rain, the imperfect bad figures and faces of the post- war, with ugly, marked traces in his bodies owing to hunger, privations and sufferance. Bad tobacco and cheap wine substituted by then the scarce food. I knew all that as some zones from Madrid were similar to that old Paris.
The plot is a police case, but although contains a murder, has many comedy facets. There's a sort of light cabaret when the show is a mixture of spicy vedettes, some numbers of clowns, acrobats, etc. Jenny Lamour, a woman of dubious past morality want to triumph. She sings and dances provocatively. However she's in love with his husband, a poor pianist played by Bernard Blier. Jenny Lamour needs from time to time some photos in order to enhance his career. For that there's Dora, a daring figure by 1947, as she's clearly a lesbian. Dora makes her money must of all photographing nude women and loves Jenny.
The show of Jenny Lamour is seen by Mr Brignon, a luscious rich old man, good client of the nude or semi- pornographic photographs from Dora. He desires Jenny and also possess a luxurious car, and one night all these facts had to coincide and Brignon is murdered at home. He's shot and hit with a champagne bottle. The deadly shots are from a stupid car thief, and the hits of the bottle from Jenny Lamour, but his jealous husband also goes there with a gun. Dora, the photographer, knowing all that and in clear love with Jenny, also goes to delete proofs of the crime.
But all this complicate plot is solved by extraordinary wisdom and experience of inspector Antoine, a middle aged man wounded in the war and who has adopted a child from the African French colonies, summing up, a good sympathetic policeman plenty of intelligence. Inspector Antoine works at Quai de Orfevres, headquarters of Paris police, and patiently, he solves the crime forgetting perhaps voluntarily some dark human details as this policeman is very human. "Both you and me haven't chance with women", says sarcastically to the lesbian Dora. Surely by these times, Dora was qualified officially as a delinquent, but inspector Antoine lets go human weaknesses, not real crimes so, the real murderer and his chief, a car dealer are arrested.
The ambiance of this crime film is lively and full of charming details.
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on 24 October 2010
I have recently watched and enjoyed 36 ("Quai des Orrfevres" ) with Gerard Depardieu and Daniel Auteuil. This reminded me of a film "Quai des Orfevres"that adults round me when I was a child were enthusing about in the late 1940s. I decided to purchase "Quai des Orfevres", which is a product of its time. It stars Louis Jouvet, an actor well-liked in his time. Seen in its context the film is very enjoyable: the style of acting, the way that the story enfolds with its many changes of direction, the quality of the filming and acting are all there to those interested in French films (of that era and beyond) or those with an open mind about what makes good cinema.
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Quai des Orfevres takes too long getting going, with Clouzot so enamored of his back-stage milieu that he is almost in danger of forgetting the story. However, once it does, it's Clouzot at his best. Bertrand Blier (father of Bertrand Blier and co-star of his Buffet Froid) is the worldworn pianist who married beneath himself and who plans to kill the seedy studio mogul with designs on his wife only to find that someone has beaten him to it. Not only that, but his carefully planned but clumsily executed alibi falls to pieces, not least when a thief steals his car at the murder scene...

The film really kicks into life with the arrival of Luis Jouvet's police inspector, a rather wonderful creation half Alistair Sim in Green for Danger and half world-weary Maigret with better dialog. In a neat running gag, his investigation is constantly conducted at the top of his voice against chaos and noise, whether it be the noisy typewriters of the police station or a loud rehearsal. The police station itself is a wonderfully realistic creation, a wealth of chaotic and telling small details that makes Steve Bocchco's once revolutionary 80's US cop shows look like antiquated museum pieces by comparison.

If Suzy Delair is a rather unconvincing femme fatale, the supporting cast more than compensate, with the beautiful Simone Renant a standout as the lesbian photographer in love with her from afar and constantly mistaken for Blier's lover by Delair and other interested parties (only Jouvet, similarly unlucky with women, understands and genuinely sympathises). With great black and white photography by Armand Thirard, this is a terrific little thriller with a nice twist ending and a lovely scene with a cab driver reluctantly identifying Renant in a police station. (Trivia note: Pierre Larquey, who played the playfully philosophical Dr Vorzet in Le Corbeau, turns up in smaller roles as a cab-driver in both Quai and Les Espions.)

Criterion's NTSC DVD is quite superb - great picture quality plus an illuminating extract from a French TV show featuring interviews with Clouzot, Blier and Renant.
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on 18 April 2015
magnifique et comment merci Clouzot et pour le froid et la misère parisien d'après guerre, et Suzy Delair ah, quelle vitalité quel portrait de femme desespérée et le très grand Jouvet et l'incontournable Blier, on pleure de bonheur devant ce film immortel en 2015 pas besoin d'en dire plus
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on 23 December 2015
This is a real French classic starring Louis Jouvet, one of her greatest actors. His performance is masterly as are the performances of the rest of the troupe. Suzy Delair also gives an outstanding performance as a kind of French Mae West, singing her famous "Tra La La" number. However, she could be a more powerful serious actress when the drama of the story required it. There is a brilliant scene in her dressing room with her and Louis Jouvet where she tells him in no uncertain terms about her hard life and berates him for being a 'flic'. His replique is equally great and together they bring off a great scene. The film was directed by Clouzot and marked something of a comeback for him after the war. He fell out of favour for a while because he continued to work during the Occupation, though he had directed another great film during that era, Le Corbeau. Perhaps under the circumstances of the Occupation, the French did not like to see themselves or their society portrayed in Le Corbeau in the way that they were. I am speculating, but maybe it was too easy after the war to show their displeasure by denying him work?. It seems that by 1947 they decided to forgive him and he made one of his best films with Quai des Orfevres.
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HALL OF FAMEon 9 February 2008
Is it a murder mystery? Is it a police procedural? Is it a back-stage look at seedy French music halls? Quai des Orfevres is all of these, but more than anything else it's an amusing comedy of infidelity, jealousy and love, set in post-WWII Paris. It may be surprising that Henri-Georges Clouzot, the director of such grim films as Le Corbeau or such suspenseful nail-biters as Diabolique and The Wages of Fear, is the director of this one. Clouzot, however, was a shrewd film-maker. "In a murder mystery," he tells us, 'there's an element of playfulness. It's never totally realistic. In this I share Hitchcock's view, which says, 'A murder mystery is a slice of cake with raisins and candied fruit, and if you deny yourself this, you might as well film a documentary.'" Quai des Orfevres is a wonderful film, and it's no documentary.

Jenny Martineau (Suzy Delair) is an ambitious singer at music halls and supper clubs. She's a flirt, she's sees nothing too wrong with using a bit of sex as well as talent to get a contract. Her stage name is Jenny Latour. And she really loves her husband, Maurice Martineau (Bernard Blier). Martineau is something of a sad sack. He's her accompanist and arranger. He's a bit balding, a bit chubby and jealous to a fault. Then we have their neighbor, the photographer Dora Monnier (Simone Renant). She's blond, gorgeous (think of Rita Hayworth) and capable. She and Martineau have been friends since they were children together. Dora, however, is definitely not thinking just of friendship when she looks at Jenny. Then comes along Georges Brignon (Charles Dullin), a wizened, rich and dirty old man, who often has Dora take "art" photographs of his young female proteges whom he poses himself. He offers a contract for a film to Jenny, and suggests a dinner at his home to discuss the details. Jenny is more than willing. Maurice is furious and forbids it. Jenny shouts right back at him, "You're jealous of the rich! Well, I want my share of their dough. I'm all for royalty!" "You're dad was a laborer," Maurice shouts back. "So what? Under Louis XV, I'd have been Madame de Pompadour! I'd have heated up their tights!"

And after Brignon is found dead with a smashed champagne bottle next to his bleeding skull, there's Dora to try to make things safe for Jenny. But wait. Inspector Antoine gets the case. Antoine (Louis Jouvet) is a tall, tired, middle-aged bachelor with sore feet. He has seen it all. He served in "the colonies" with the Foreign Legion and returned with an adopted baby and malaria. The child is now about eight-years old and Antoine dotes on him. One of the first things Antoine discovers is not only did someone brain Brignon with a bottle, someone shot him in the heart. Who did it? Before long Jenny, Maurice and Dora all are making up alibis, lying and, at one or another point, confessing. How will Antoine discover the murderer? Will we have a chance to see some great music hall songs sung by Jenny Latour? Everything becomes clear, but only with time and Detective Antoine's persistence. We are left with many kinds of love leading to all kinds of motives, from hair-trigger jealousy to longing glances...and all played with a nice mixture of Gallic amusement.

Clouzot takes us to a Paris of seedy but not threatening neighborhoods, to downtrodden music publishers where tunes are played on the piano for buyers, to restaurants with discrete private dining rooms. Most of all, he takes us to the music hall where Jenny Latour often performs. We can see Jenny as she sings, with couples in the seats and single men wearing their coats and hats in standing room. And everyone smokes. The first third of the film, in fact, takes place largely in this milieu. With Jenny singing about "Her petite tra-la-la, her sweet tra-la-la," we follow her from trying out the song at the publishers to a rehearsal to a saucy performance with Jenny in a feathered hat, a corset, gartered stockings and not much else.

Delair, Blier and Renant all do wonderful jobs, but it Louis Jouvet who holds everything together. He was a marvelous actor who disliked making films. The stage was his world, and he took on films only if he happened to like the director and to make money to finance his stage work. Jouvet was tall with a long face and broad cheekbones. He was not conventionally handsome but he had what it takes to dominate a scene. For a look at how skillfully he could play comedy, watch him in Drole de Drame. He's a fascinating actor. At one point he says, "I've taken a liking to you, Miss Dora Monnier." "Me?" she asks. "Yes. Because you and I are two of a kind. When it comes to women, we'll never have a chance." Jouvet brings all kinds of nuances to that line, from rueful regret to a gentle amusement.

The Criterion release of Quai des Orfevres has an excellent black-and-white transfer, with deep blacks and rich grays. There is a short interview with Clouzot and another interview with Blier, Renant and Delair. The case holds a fold-out which gives film details and a solid essay about the film. Most importantly, on the other side it gives us a full-length photo of Jenny in her small and effective costume.
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on 20 September 2013
Quai des Orfervres is a wonderfully atmospheric trip into one of the low rent arrondissements of post war Paris, the story revolves around the world of professional but small time music hall performers. Looking back from the material luxury of the 21st century it's sobering to note just how poor everyone was at that time. And not just the unemployed. Even the detective Antoine, when called out in the middle of a cold winter night has to choose between putting on his overcoat or leaving it draped over his young son who is fast asleep under it in their freezing cold flat. In a touching moment he decides to brave the cold, leaving his son to sleep on. The film is rich with subtle glimpses like this into the reality of these people's lives. Louis Jouvet's performance as Antoine is utterly rivetting, the central strength of the film. He plays the prototype for so many other later detectives such as Peter Falk's Colombo who solve their cases by a combination of faultless observation of details, a deep understanding of the human condition and by deliberately allowing others to underestimate him. And because this is Clouzot there's a surprise ending which I won't spoil. In this film Clouzot demonstrates a somewhat warmer view of humanity than say, Wages of Fear where nobody comes out looking good.The plot is a little slow at first but do stick with it because it becomes ever more absorbing as it develops. Quai des Orfervres is yet more proof (if any were needed) that films don't need mega budgets, special effects or big star names to be engaging and rewarding.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 August 2013
It might be slightly stretching things to term Henri-Georges Clouzot's 1947 film as 'definitive noir', but it does have a number of the traits of the genre - a central crime of passion, plenty of evocative, night-time urban scenes (this time of Paris, courtesy of cinematographer Armand Thirard) and a softly spoken, hard-bitten police detective. For me, however, what raises Quai Des Orfevres above all but the finest films of this genre is the film's witty and perceptive script (which Clouzot co-wrote), which, together with its plethora of often incidental 'mood setting' scenes, lend the film a great sense of authenticity.

However, you could be forgiven for not thinking of Clouzot's film as being of the 'police noir' genre at all, as it begins (almost Les Enfants du Paradis-like) by introducing us to the brassy (and apparently promiscuous) Marguerite Martineau, aka Jenny Lamour, (superbly played by Suzy Delair), a variety club/music hall singer, whose flirtatious behaviour continually inflames jealous husband Maurice (an excellent Bernard Blier), despite the calming influence of Maurice's long-time friend, photographer Dora (Simone Renant). It is these three characters which (arguably) provide the strongest thread to the film and it is not until they have become entwined with the suspicious death of elderly entrepreneur and womaniser Brignon Charles Dullin), whose potential use as a route to showbiz stardom has been latched onto by Jenny (causing her hubby to suffer another fit of jealousy), that Louis Jouvet's entrance as cynical cop, Inspector Antoine, (at about the film's half-way point) turns what was essentially a soap opera into a fast-moving police procedural.

Clouzot is particularly skilful at filling in points of detail of his characters' backgrounds and ambitions. Jenny is not just a flirtatious diva, but has ambitions to better her (and her husband's) way of life and deep-down is devoted to Maurice ('It's not just physical, it's spiritual'), whilst ex-Foreign Legion veteran, Antoine, has a mixed race son and is particularly philosophical about male-female relationships ('When it comes to women, we'll never have a chance) - indeed, in Quai Des Orfevres, Clouzot has written two particularly strong female characters in Jenny and Dora. The director has also devised a number of superb set-piece scenes, such as that where Jenny and Maurice engage in heated debate getting their alibis straight (whilst in the background a band play an increasingly intense and violent piece of violin music) and that where Jenny and cop Antoine exchange stories of their mutually disadvantaged upbringings. The film is also notable for its (for the time) rather risqué approach to sexuality, with a number of suggestive euphemisms and/or scenes (either where flesh is directly flashed or that act as metaphors, such as that of a saucepan boiling over).

Acting-wise, the film is consistently good, but I would particularly highlight Blier's turn as the jealous husband. His transition between moods of uptightness, agitation, broodiness and fatalism is very impressive.

A fine film to rank with other films of the genre such as Touchez Pas Au Grisbi, Bob Le Flambeur and Quai Des Brumes.
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on 3 December 2012
Quai des Orfèvres (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1947, 106')

Produced by Roger de Venloo
Screenplay by Henri-Georges Clouzot, Jean Ferry, based on Légitime défense by Stanislas-André Steeman
Starring Louis Jouvet, Suzy Delair, Bernard Blier, Simone Renant, Charles Dullin (Brignon).
Music by Francis Lopez. Cinematography by Armand Thirard. Editing by Charles Bretoneiche.

The Direction Régionale de Police Judiciaire de Paris (DRPJ Paris), often called the 36, quai des Orfèvres or simply the 36 by the address of its headquarters, is the Paris division of the French Police judiciaire. Roughly between 1955 and 1960, French cinema adopted série noire novels, introducing to its movies the private detective or journalist, also strong on women and bars, and films often ironic or satirical about the police force. The uninitiated reader is referred to the respective internet entries.

Jenny Lamour (Delair) wants to succeed in the theatre. Her husband and accompanist is Maurice Martineau (Blier), a mild-mannered but jealous man. When he finds out that Jenny has been making eyes at Brignon, a lecherous old businessman, in order to further her career, he loses his temper and threatens Brignon with death. Despite this, Jenny goes to a secret rendezvous at Brignon's apartment, who is murdered the same evening. The criminal investigations are led by Inspector Antoine (Jouvet).

Quai des Orfèvres was Clouzot's first film in four years for various reasons; it was meant to be a commission to end his enforced inactivity and take advantage of the new popular style of crime literature. Clouzot had previously written screenplays based on Steeman's work including Georges Lacombe's Le Dernier des six (1943) and his own debut, L'Assassin habite au 21. His producer Eliacheff agreed and shortly after sold the rights to Roger de Venloo.

The film was also a comeback for director-actor Louis Jouvet with whom Clouzot had become good friends before World War II. Jouvet accepted the part of Inspector Antoine on the condition that a flexible shooting schedule would be allowed and that Clouzot would cast some of Jouvet's troupe members in the film. The main female lead was written for Suzy Delair who was Clouzot's romantic partner at the time of filming.

Quai des Orfèvres was released on 3 October 1947 in Paris. In 1947, it was the fourth most popular film in France, drawing 5.5 million spectators. At the 1947 Venice International Film Festival, Clouzot won the International Prize for Best Director for the film. It has also had several theatrical revivals in France since its original release. The film was released in New York in 1948 under the title Jenny Lamour, and re-released for a limited run within America in 2002.

The film received positive reception from critics on its initial release in France. French and international critics have continued to praise the film since. In 1964, Jean Mitry wrote that the film is "one of the few films--with Renoir's Rules of the Game, All About Eve, and two or three others--which allows us to think that the cinema, like the novel and the theater, can some day be an instrument for exploring the human soul."

213 - Quai des Orfèvres (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1947, 106') -Postwar Paris - 3/12/2012
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