Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Henri-Georges Clouzot Centenary

The 100th anniversary of French film director Henri-Georges Clouzot's birth was yesterday, November 20th; he died in 1977. Clouzot's reputation in film mostly centers on his two 50s thrillers The Wages of Fear (1953) and Diabolique (1955). The Criterion Collection offers both of these films on DVD as well as his 40s efforts Le Corbeau (1943) and Quai des Orfevres (1947). Among his other noteworthy films is the feature-length documentary The Mystery Of Picasso (1956).

Clouzot was known as a perfectionist; like Hitchcock, he both sculpted his scripts and planned his shots during pre-production meticulously. Ill health throughout his life limited the number of feature films he made to about a dozen.

The Wages of Fear won both the Grand Prize (later known as the Palme d'or) at Cannes and the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. Bosley Crowther ended his New York Times review of the film thusly: "The excitement derives entirely from the awareness of nitroglycerine and the gingerly, breathless handling of it. You sit there waiting for the theater to explode."

The Wages of Fear (1953): A devastating study of human nature, this movie hits you right between the eyes with what we’re all capable of, depending on the circumstances, not the least of which is courage but most frighteningly, a willingness to forget your own humanity; a despairing look at our own individual, selfish psyches presented in the form of a suspenseful thriller.

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