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Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Henri Georges Clouzot

Recently I thought to myself, you really should see more French films seeing as you live in France and speak the language...

So I did some research and came across Clouzot, he is a Director who is known for his quality films and has often been called a "French Hitchcock" due the enormous amounts of suspense contained in his films and their excellent scripts.

I acquired three of Clouzot's films as I have a habit of watching directors films in threes and they only truly become some of my favourites after I've seen  three of their films.
These films are:

Le Corbeau (1943)
Le Corbeau is a well shot, well acted film but what stands out above all else is the story, it's mysterious, full of twists and turns and has a truly unexpected ending. The overall mood of the film was surprisingly dark for it's time as it depicts mistrust, intrigue, blackmail and murder in a small village in rural France, this dark mood and the nasty characters were to become trademarks of Clouzot's style. This film was banned by the Vichy government, which is understandable as it portrays the darker side of humans, the mob mentality and the cruelty they are capable of.

Le Quai Des Orfevres.

Le Salaire De La Peur (1953)
This is a definite improvement on Le Corbeau but both of these films share many themes, such as the dark atmosphere, the tragic end...
This film though is superior to the previous one due to it's amazing cinematography and lighting, really a joy to watch. The acting is also superior, with Yves Montand in a memorable role, and Vera Clouzot (the directors wife) does a great job as well.

The film starts of pretty slow but the gradual build up of tension and suspense is one of greatest ever put on film, at the beginning as the story was being laid out, I wondered how director would go about it, by the end I was more than satisfied. It's such an unpredictable, tragic story with a truly memorable conclusion. They don't make films like these any more!

Les Diaboliques (1954)
Les Diaboliques is a simple yet truly thrilling mystery that surrounds a murder. The mystery is so well executed, so perfectly timed and put in place; that it kept me guessing until the end, the end is easily one of the biggest surprises I've ever had while watching a film.
Since this film relies almost entirely on it's mystery I won't go into any sort of details, but I must mention that Hitchcock himself tried to but the rites for this story, but was a couple of hours late, Clouzot had got there before him, and I'm glad he did for Hitchcock would never have been able to make such a film as this even though he was a great director. The acting is very good in this film, Simone Signoret gives a good performance as does the rest of the cast, many of whom have appeared in Clouzot's films before, but the real star of the film in my opinion was Vera Clouzot, who gives one of the finest female performances I've ever seen.

All these films are considered great achievements in film making and have all become part of my list of all time favourite films. Coincidentally all three of these were remade in some way or another by Hollywood, but that's a discussion for another time...

As a director, Clouzot is very interesting. His films are dark and pessimistic yet they are also very thrilling and I really enjoyed watching them. His style is well defined and rather original.
Although not all his films are as acclaimed as these three, I still think he was an important French director, I think he should get more recognition for in my opinion he is a much better director than Jean Luc Godard for example, and maybe even better than Melville.

As a person Clouzot seems to have been a troubled individual who's life was far from easy, as he lived through WW2, became ill, was banned from the film industry after making Le Corbeau, lost his wife to a heart attack, became very depressed and eventually died at the age of 69. In all he directed 12 films from 1942 to 1968. But I think all these troubles he suffered played a large part in making his films as great as they are, and certainly caused his pessimistic and slightly depressing view of life and human nature, whic his what makes his films interesting.

I would highly recommend all three of these films, especially for anyone with an interest in French cinema. I also look forward to watching Le Quai Des Orfevres (1947) another Clouzot, this time more of a film noir, that looks very good. I might check out Les Espions as well if only to see Vera Clouzot, who's a great actress.

Clouzot's filmography as a director:
  • The Murderer Lives at Number 21 (1942)
  • Le Corbeau (1943)
  • Quai des Orfèvres (1947)
  • Manon (1949)
  • Retour à la Vie (1949)
  • Miquette et Sa Mère (1950)
  • The Wages of Fear (1953)
  • Diabolique (1954)
  • The Mystery of Picasso (1956)
  • Les Espions (1957)
  • La Vérité (1960)
  • La Prisonnière (1968)


  1. I have seen DIABOLIQUE, but I am not familiar with the rest of his work. Very informative blog. Maybe I can brush up my French skills, (which I haven't used since college,) and track down a few.

  2. Thanks Sparky!
    He's definitely an interesting director, I would recommend The Wages Of Fear as it's widely considered to be one of the best films ever made!

    Brushing up on your French is a good idea as well, although these films contain an older form of French that isn't much like what is spoken today.

    Anyway I hope you manage to find a few of these films and review them as I would love to know what you think. Thanks for reading Sparky.

  3. I have seen The Wages of Fear and Les Diaboliques.

    I think Wages of Fear is amazing in the sense, there is so much suspense created out of merely a situation, as the film is virtually is more of a perilous situation and at that, an unforgettable thriller!

    Les Diaboliques is great too, but Wages of Fear is Clouzot's masterpice, IMHO.