Henri Clouzot


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6.8 The Murderer Lives at Number 21 (1942)
7.2 The Raven (1943)
6.8 Quay of the Goldsmiths (1947)
5.0 Miquette (1950)
7.5 Wages of Fear (1953)
7.2 The Devils (1955)
5.0 The Mystery Picasso (1956)
6.8 The Spies (1957)
7.0 The Truth (1960)
5.0 The Prisoner (1968)
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If English is your first language and you could translate my old Italian text, please contact me. Il tirocinio negli anni '30 di Henri Clouzot (France, 1907), ex-studente di scienze politiche, fu lungo e vario: sceneggiatore, soggettista per registi minori, assistente di Dupont, direttore di produzione per i rifacimenti francesi dei film tedeschi. Esordì come regista nel 1942 con un poliziesco, L'Assassin Habite au 21/ The Murderer Lives at Number 21 (1942), ma sfondò veramente con il successivo Le Corbeau/ The Raven (1943), un altro thriller che però descriveva a tinte fosche l'ambiente della provincia francese durante l'occupazione: In a small village (presented in a manner halfway between the idyllic and the ominous) a gynecologist, Remy Germain, leaves a farm after a failed pregnancy. A man who is dying of liver cancer at the hospital, Francois, receives the visit of his mom. The doctor walks in and a nurse, Marie, sees a letter in the pocket of his jacket. She tries to grab it, but the doctor destroys it before she can read it. He visits an attractive neighbor, Denise, who pretends to be sick in bed but is just faking it to get the doctor's attention. Another woman, Laura, confronts him: she received a pison pen letter that exposes her as his lover, so she thinks he told someone of their secret meetings. He walks into his own apartment and finds yet another letter. Laura walks into her apartment, meets her much older husband, the psychiatrist, and finds another letter. They are all signed "the raven". The chief physician of the hospital reads a letter to his financial assistant in which the assistan is accused of corruption, and the assistant in turns reads a letter in which the chief physician is accused of seducing his daughter. The letters always attack Germain as an abortionist. while his assistant is accused of corruption Denise seems to spend her entire life in bed. Denise fakes another illness, and this time Germain sees her walk: she limps after a car accident. That night they make love, but the stern Germain resists Denise's seduction, and she hates him for that. Alone, she pulls out a stuffed raven from a box... When he returns home, he finds the raven in front of his apartment's door. Denise's teenage sister Rolande sees it, and asks Germain for money with a pathetic excuse. Laura and Germain meet in a church, but it turns out that both the letters that each believed the other one wrote are fake. Denise, who was also tipped by the Raven, catches them in private conversation and unleashes her jealousy. The cancer patient receives a letter from the raven telling him the truth about his illness, and he commits suicide. The doctors at the hospital suspect that the nurse Marie, Laura's sister, is the Raven, because Germain accused her of stealing morphine. A letter even falls from the carriage that is carrying the dead man during his funeral procession. It is addressed to the townsfolk, and exposes Germain as the seducer of Laura, Denise and soon Rolande. The women attack Laura and soon there is a crowd demanding to lynch Marie. She runs from the hospital but is chased in the streets of the town. Marie is saved by the police, who arrest her. Germain decides it's time for him to leave town, despite Denise begs him to stay for her sake. But another letter surfaces, actually falls from the sky, during mass, in front of the all town, to announce that they arrested the wrong person. A woman is paid to set a trap: ask him to perform an abortion. He refuses, but she would not have betrayed him anyway because she recognizes him as the brain surgeon who once saved her life. Thus he decides to tell the truth: he walks into a meeting of the town's authorities and confesses that he is not a gynecologist, but a famous brain surgeon. He fled his hospital and Paris when his wife died after cheating on him with his best friend and getting pregnant. Now the stern doctor Germain turns into a cunning investigator, determined to find out who the Raven is. Laura's husband the psychiatrist suspects Denise. To find the Raven, the psychiatrist proposes a test: the 18 people who were in the gallery of the church when the letter fell are asked to re-write the Raven's letters. The mother of the liver cancer patient thinks she knows who the Raven is and swears to take justice into her hands. Germain sees a letter in Denise's room: it's a letter signed Raven, in which she tells him that she is pregnant of him. But, confronted, she denies she is the Raven. She is only a desperate woman. She tells him that Laura phoned him, but it is not true. On the other hand, Laura has a letter from the Raven threatening to kill her if she continues her affair with Germain. It looks like Denise is the Raven, after all. But then Germain sees that Laura has ink on her finger, and understands: Laura did make the phone call, and now is only trying to frame Denise. Germain walks to her husband, the psychiatrist, but the old man already knows: Laura went mad, he thinks, because of the frustration of being married to an old man. The phone rings: Denise fainted and fell down the stairs. Laura stops Germain on the way out and screams that the Raven is her husband, he is the madman. The ambulance comes and takes her away. But Francois' mother has struck: the old psychiatrist lies dead at his desk, and a woman in a black veil walks away in the street.

Da questo giallo "Lang-iano" sul tema della colpa Clouzot torna al poliziesco con Quai des Orfevres/ Quay of the Goldsmiths (1947), interpretato da un ineccepibile Jouvet nella parte di un commissario che deve risolvere un caso di omicidio: Più che l'intreccio, banale, conta il quadro d'ambiente, cupo miscuglio di eros passionale, vile gelosia e feroce crudeltà, e il ritratto umano del commissario, un poliziotto antiretorico, acuto e comprensivo, impotente e malinconico testimone del male.

Un mediocre che vive sulle spalle della moglie, attraente canzonettista di un caffè, medita di uccidere un libertino colpevole di aver allungato le mani sulla donna, ma lo trova già morto e Jouvet scopre che ad ucciderlo era stata lei.

Con Manon (1949), liberamente tratto da "Manon Lescaut" di Prevost, Clouzot professa il suo polemico interesse per la società Francese. Anche in questo film ciò che conta è il quadro d'ambiente, la denuncia dell'opportunismo e dell'ipocrisia che covano nel grembo del gollismo.

Lo stile semplice e immediato di Clouzot si concede una tenue divagazione con Miquette et sa mére (1950), commedia confezionata su misura per Jouvet.

Le Salaire De La Peur/ Wages of Fear (1953) ritorna alla forma del thriller, alla situazione crudele, alla tensione narrativa, alla suspence, acuendo il senso dello spettacolo e il gusto per l'esotico che trapelavano da Manon, mentre allenta la pressione sul quadro d'ambiente, peraltro concentrando l'azione nel microcosmo di due camion in mezzo al deserto.

In una zona pressochè incontaminata dell'America Latina quattro avventurieri europei, per un motivo o per l'altro bisognosi di denaro, accettano di trasportare due carichi di nitroglicerina a un pozzo di petrolio in fiamme; il viaggio è lungo e sfibrante, lungo un percorso impossibile e con il pericolo continuo che una brusca manovra faccia saltare in aria i due camion; ciò che capita al primo, senza che i due del secondo possano capire come s19è verificato; dopo una serie estenuante di peripezie, Montand, l'unico superstite (l'altro è morto in seguito alle ferite riportate in un incidente) giunge a destinazione; ma sulla via del ritorno sarà anche lui vittima di un incidente stradale.

La crudeltà fa capolino in diversi punti e soprattutto nell'episodio in cui Montand passa con il camion sulle gambe del compagno per non far arenare il camion in una pozza di petrolio. Epico ed antiretorico nello stile limpido e plastico del regista, Le salaire de la peur è un film disperato, ambientato fra disperati che tentano un'impresa disperata (un'illusoria spedizione verso la libertà). È un incubo mozzafiato, un viaggio onirico, una perlustrazione morbosa dell'inconscio della paura, un'amara meditazione sull'irreversibilità del destino umano.

Les Diaboliques/ The Devils (1955) è il giallo in cui culmina la brama di suspense e crudeltà del regista: Un film d'atmosfera, carico di minacce e di tensioni, surreale, sul tema dell'identità ambigua, o della mancanza d'identità.

In a boarding school of the countryside Nicole has been beaten by her lover, Michel, the director of the school, when he came home late the night before. His wife Christina, originally from Latin America, consoles her. The whole school knows of the manage a trois. THe man is a brute. He forces Christina to eat against her will. He has the school serve too little food to the children. Alone with the two women, he insults both. And then he forces his wife to have sex. Nicole has a plan to kill him, but Christina doesn't have the guts. The two women go on vacation for a few days and Christina finds the courage to go along with Nicole's plan. She calls her husband Michel and pretends that she wants a divorce. This is enough for the man to immediately take the train. Nobody knows that he came to town. They have an alibi because the landlord and landlady saw them. Nicole prepares a bottle of drugged wine to put him asleep. When he arrives, CHristina confronts him. He is as arrogant as usual. For a second she tries to stop him from drinking the wine but he slaps her in the face. Then she starts pouring the wine. When he falls asleep, the two women drag the body into the bathroom and drown him in the tub. The following day they pack the corpse in a trunk pretending it's their luggage and return to the school. At night they dump the body in the swimming pool. Christina pretends to be worried that the man is missing. Nobody knows where he went. One day Nicole drops her keys in the pool so they have an excuse to drain the pool. The pool is drained, but no corpse is found! Nicole searches the whole school, but there is no trace of the corpse, of footsteps, of any sign that someone tampered with the body.
Later the boy of a dry cleaner delivers the suit of the man, claiming that it was the man himself who asked for the suit to be delivered at home. The two women, puzzled, visit the dry cleaner and learn that there was a key in the suit: the key of a hotel room, a very expensive hotel. Christina takes the key and enters into the room, but there is nothing. The staff tells her that they have never seen anyone.
Christina is now nervous. She accuses Nicole of being the one who planned it and carried it out. One accuses the other one of having killed him out of jealousy. After the fight, however, they read in the newspaper that a naked body has been found in the nearby river. They think it's him. Christina goes to the morgue to identify him but it's not him. An elderly man introduces himself as a retired inspector who volunteers to help find the missing person. He starts asking questions around and promises to check with the police (not exactly what the two women wanted). The another mysterious event takes place: a child claims to have broken a window with his slingshot and to have been punished by the director. The women yell at him that he is lying, but he keeps saying that he saw the director. Now Christina fears that the man might be alive and torturing them. In fact, Christina is getting sicker and sicker, her heart weaker and weaker. The doctor who comes to visit doesn't tell her the truth: he doesn't want to take her into his clinic because he's afraid she will die there (bad publicity). While the doctor is inside, a photographer takes a picture of the children. When the picture is developed, they can see someone staring at one of the windows, and it looks like the director. Now both women are afraid. Nicole decides to flee. Christina is too sick to follow her and in any case she is torn by sense of guilt. The inspector shows up in the middle of the night. Christina confesses everything, but the inspector does not believe her.
At night Christina sees and hears someone walk around the house while everybody is asleep. She even hears the noise of the typewriter that only her husband used. The typewritten has written his name over and over again, but there is nobody in the room. Christina runs back to her room terrified. She walks into her bathroom and finds... her husband's corpse in the tub! The dead man starts rising slowly from the tub. Christina dies of a heart attack. Michel walks out of the tub, checks her pulse to make sure she is dead, and then calls... Nicole. They planned it together: to kill Christina so they could get married.
But their plan fails because the inspector is there to arrest them.
It is not finished though. The day after the "murder" the same child who had seen teh director claims that he has just seen Christina alive...

Dopo Le Mistère Picasso (1956), omaggio al grande pittore, e lo spionistico Les Espions/ The Spies (1957), ambientato in una clinica dove si tessono intrighi ai danni di uno scienziato atomico, Clouzot scolpisce un altro thriller di grande effetto con La Veritè/ The Truth (1960), impostato secondo l'approccio "giudiziario" di Cayatte e secondo un'analisi psicologica dell'imputata con l'obiettivo di denunciare bigotti e conservatori ottusi e malvagi: Ancora una digressione sul significato della colpa, una narrazione ad effetto e una vicenda straziante di falliti condannati da un destino inesorabile . E un piccante ritratto di adolescente inquieta e insoddisfatta, alla disperata ricerca di qualcosa ma senza sapere cosa.

Brigitte Bardot è una ragazza disinvolta e istintiva giunta da una cittadina di provincia dove si muore di noia che, innamoratasi del fidanzato della sorella modello (sempre la favorita della famiglia), non esita a portarglielo via e a instaurare una relazione; il suo carattere volubile e impulsivo provoca però diversi litigi, sempre conclusi da appassionati e reciproci perdoni; ma quel controverso amore sfocia nel dramma quando lei, per difendersi da un impeto rabbioso, lo uccide; al processo, inchiodata dalle sue scandalose abitudini (ozio, amicizie equivoche, sfacciataggine, promiscuità) più ancora che dalle prove, non riesce a spiegarsi, tanto più che giudici e avvocati sono esseri amorfi e privi di umanità, pieni soltanto di codici e di cavilli; scoppia in una crisi isterica e grida: Siete morti! Siete tutti morti!; tenta anche il suicidio, ma l'accusa sostiene che si tratta di una messa in scena; soltanto la morte della disgraziata, per un altro tentativo, questa volta riuscito, chiarirà la disperata sincerità della ragazza.

Dopo l'incompiuto L'Enfer/ Hell (1964), La Prisonière/ The Prisoner (1968) amplifica lo stile plastico di Clouzot e la figura del fallito (il marito tradito, il conducente del camion, la ragazza amorale); L'eros passionale e la redenzione attraverso l'amore rimandano a Manon.

La moglie di un pittore pop è attratta morbosamente da un voyeur impotente, un mercante d'arte che la fotografa in pose pornografiche; il marito scopre la tresca e medita la vendetta, ma la donna corre ad avvertire l'amante che ormai ama sinceramente, ma viene travolta da un treno e spira mormorando il suo nome.

È l'ultimo film di Clouzot, che si spegne nel 1977, e contiene al massimo grado la componente stroheimiana del cinema di Clouzot: la noia e l'avvilimento che portano alla crudeltà.

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