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Tuesday, 28 November 2017

On Blu-ray - David Hare discovers new French editions of three films by Henri-Georges Clouzot

While I sit here fretting over my screen, awaiting pre-Xmas Blu-ray late arrivals like the BFI Celine et Julie, and the Masters of Cinema Keaton boxset, I need to attend to some overlooked goodies from 2017. 

Henri-Georges Clouzot
One such is a three title tranche from Studio Canal, in France only so far, of Clouzot films in brand new restorations which lift the movies in question from reliable old 90s era DVDs out of the old Studio Canal Classics grey cardboard box DVDs (still adored for their packaging and their opening Canal classic clips montage logo with the Harry Lime theme), to a brilliant new 1080p level for the High Def era. These are quite aside from Clouzot’s most famous movie, Le Salaire de la Peur which was recently released in a longest ever 154 minute cut on a superb BFI from a new 4K, with commentary from Adrian Martin. 
Canal has now reissued three other Clouzots, one from 1968, La Prisonnière in fabulously psychedelic Eastmancolor, and his two greatest movies, Le Corbeau from 1945 (The Raven) made under the Greven/Continental Films administration during the Occupation, and his dark, savage and perhaps funniest picture, from one of the great sardonic misanthropic moralists of cinema, Quai des Orfèvres from 1947. Here the fine stage and film comedian Louis Jouvet plays a trench-coated police inspector with a black son (or adopted son, we never really know) investigating a murder amongst the denizens of two of society’s least salubrious métiers, showbiz and a pornographic society photography racket run by neither the first nor the last of Clouzot’s very unstable Lesbian villains, here played with considerably nervous adroitness by Simone Renant as Dora.
In fact, the entire cast of Quai des Orfèvres play their parts in overcoats and furs and other items for providing warmth, given the post war deprivations of achingly cold winter studios and soundstages with no heating. You can feel the actors shiver while taking in the visual spectacle of so much sleaze and depravity. 


'two trained Fox Terriers who do some very neat faux shock/horror reactions'
The three screens here are, in my modest hommage to Clouzot lui-même, two trained Fox Terriers who do some very neat faux shock/horror reactions to the aptly named Clouzeau regular Suzy Delair, playing the even more nicely named Jenny Lamour, not quite murdering a song at rehearsal. The dogs manage to upstage the entire rehearsal sequence in three cutaways which surely enhance the reputation of the reverse angle shot to the Pantheon of cinematic language. Only Clouzot would and could make such a meal out of this otherwise tedious five minute slab of exposition. 


'not quite murdering a song', Suzy Delair, Quai des Orfèvres
Clouzot’s career right up to the late fifties and the Nouvelle Vague is an extremely sustained run of fine pictures, all clearly stamped by his personality and his razor sharp eye for human folly. Thematically he is the inheritor to the caustic vision and wit of Duvivier, during his own peak through the 30s into the fifties, coming to an end in 54 with his great last burst, Voici le Temps des Assassins (1954). Clouzot would make only a few more movies after the ascension of the new guard in 1958, who had by then locked him into their despised Tradition de Qualité. Ironically it was Chabrol himself who most closely inherits Clouzot's mantel for moralist and sardonic commentator on human weakness, with the birth of the N-V.
Clouzot deserves better treatment today, and the resurrection of his first two decades through these terrific new 4K and 2K masters and Blu-rays is a great beginning. The three Canal discs reviewed above are currently only available from France although they are optionally subtitled and language friendly for English markets. All are hard coded Region B. 

If, like so many of us you loathe Xmas and all the crap that goes with it I can think of no more perfect a director to give the season the finger than Clout.



(one of) 'his two greatest movies'

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