Clouzot. We’re at position #159 here so an auteur with a top 500 film of all-time (Diabolique) and another great film not far behind (Wages of Fear) and in the top 100 of its respective decade is getting rarer and rarer. That’s a strong 1-2 punch and certainly the reason Clouzot is on this list. He’s a technical master, mostly emotionally cool films that build tension, brick by brick, through superior craftsmanship. Certainly the lack of depth here hurts Clouzot’ case- just two archiveable films.
Best film: Diabolique. The consensus experts (on TSPDT) differ with me here but the wallop of the reveal in Diabolique is just something I cannot shake- even after repeat viewings.
total archiveable films: 2
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 1 (Diabolique)
top 100 films of the decade: 2 (Diabolique, The Wages of Fear)
most overrated: The Wages of Fear is #276 on the TSPDT consensus list and I’m farther down on it- it doesn’t land in my top 500 so we’re a ways apart here.
most underrated: Diabolique is at #627 on TSPDT and I’m at #221 so there’s a good 400 slots here in difference.
gem I want to spotlight : With only two archiveable films the “gem” and “overrated” categories have to overlap here. Just because the film doesn’t land in my top 500 certainly doesn’t mean it’s a gem—The Wages of Fear is quite brilliant—look at some of the framing and shadow work here.
stylistic innovations/traits: Clouzot’s reputation is well earned—he’s known as a superior craftsman who made first-rate thrillers—sound like anyone else? Haha. There’s little wonder why he’s called the French Hitchcock. His resume rests on the two juggernauts made here in the 1950-‘s and they are magnificent- it is no wonder they were remade in Hollywood (anyone who wants to compare Clouzot with William Friedkin can do that as Friedkin, at the height of his powers coming off The French Connection and The Exorcist, chose to remake the Clouzot film).
- The Wages of Fear
By year and grades
|1953- The Wages of Fear||MS|
|1954 – Diabolique||MP|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives
My Clouzot ranking:
1. Wages of Fear – MS/MP – leaning MP.
2. Diabolique – MS
3. The Murderer Lives at Number 21- HR
4. Quai des Orfèvres – HR
5. La Vérité – R
6. Le Corbeau – R
7. La Prisonnière – Fringe Reccomendation.
8. Manon – Average. Not worthy of archives.
9. Les espions – Average. Not worthy of archives.
– Really enjoyed journey through his films. While visually, I don’t think his movies are very similar visually or that he favors some specific cinematic tools, but I think they all share the same cynical worldview (he reminds of Wilder in this regard actually).
– He also loved to criticize bourgeoisie morality and was very interested in obsessive jealousy. I think he was very consistent regarding these themes throughout his cinematic life.
– The top two films are justly the most lauded in his filmography, but you shouldn’t sleep on his other movies.
– Murderer and Quai des Orfèvres are clever and witty murder mysteries. Which keep twisting and turning till very end.
– La Verite is an interesting courtroom/relationship drama with a surprising feminist edge. And Le Corbeau while didn’t completely work on story level for me, but is probably is the most visually intriguing movie from Clouzot early days. Well worth a watch.
– La Prisonnière is a weird one. Half of the movie is pretty rote love triangle melodrama. But there are some fascinating things about submissive relationship and in the finale Clouzot used some surrealistic techniques he wanted to use in his abandoned project Inferno (which is an interesting story onto itself, Serge Bromberg did a decent documentary about it). So I think it’s worth a look for Clouzot enthusiasts.)
– Les Spiones is for my money his weakest film. It plays a pretty absurd situation straight and suffers for it. But Sam Jaffe and especially Peter Ustinov are very fun here.
@Mad Mike- Fantastic share here. Thank you. I have some work to do.
@MadMike – Funny I just watched Wages of Fear a couple of nights ago, my 3rd viewing. Absolutely amazing concept for a film. The 1st half is a little slow but I think the setting up of the characters is necessary in showing the emptiness in their lives and why they would agree to a literal suicide mission. The opening reminds me a little of the Treasure of the Sierra Madre. But once things get going it’s absolutely amazing.
The entire last 1 1/2 hours is Hitchcock’s maxim on display:
“surprise is when two people are sitting in a coffee shop and a bomb goes off under the table; suspense is when we see a man place a bomb under the table and watch the two people meet to have coffee.”
The film has strong political undertones to it but it works so well as a straight up thriller and action film that any ideological aspects of it are sort of neutralized.
@Drake @James Trapp – Thanks guys!
@James Trapp – Yeah, I understand the argument if someone says that the first part is slow or overlong, but personally I’ve enjoyed it very much. It establishes our not so noble heroes, their relationships and desperation and builds up Jo.
Agree, that second half is just unrelenting and Clouzot milks every ounce of suspense from it.
Good call on political undertones. Also, it has Clouzot usual bleak view of humanity.
What you think about the ending? I’m a bit on the fence about it. I like parallel editing in it, and it fits with character. But at the same time, the irony of it is so heavy-handed.
Also, I’m curious, have you seen Sorcerer? I would be very interested in your opinion about it since you rate Wages so highly.
@MadMike – I have mixed feelings on the ending, today Hollywood films are almost contractually obligated to have a happy ending even if it does not fit with the rest of the film. At the same time I do not think a film should avoid a happy ending just for the sake of avoiding a happy ending as that is almost just as bad. I agree that it was somewhat heavy handed but at the same time it was consistent with the bleak nature of the film and consistent with Mario’s character who was cocky and acted invincible at times so it makes sense that he would be driving the truck so recklessly. And agree on the parallel editing being great.
I have not seen Sorcerer yet, but look forward to checking it out at some point. Have you seen it?
@James Trapp – Yeah, I think we are pretty much on the same page regarding the ending.)
I haven’t seen Sorcerer yet. I’m think about doing Friedkin study next year.
A pretty daunting question but can you suggest me some great French films before the “nouvelle vague” like Diabolique.
My ranking of Clouzot`s films that I`ve seen:
1. Diabolique MP
2. The Wages of Fear MS/MP
3. The Murderer Lives At Number 21 HR