Henri-Georges Clouzot: The Cinema of Disenchantment

January 12, 2012 – February 4, 2012
Pacific Film Archive

Tempered by the pessimism of war-torn France, director Henri-Georges Clouzot’s brand of hard-edged realism made for gripping genre films, often mysteries and thrillers, that contained within them a near-misanthropic vision of man. Yet his best-remembered works, the dread-inducing The Wages of Fear (1953) and Diabolique (1955), have a paradoxical sympathy for their characters, a sympathy based upon the recognition that when left to our own devices, we will helplessly choose the baser path.

Clouzot’s virtuosic way with suspense, often tinged with sardonic humor, earned him the title “French Hitchcock,” yet many of his finest criminal concoctions find greater affinity with French-coined film noir and its scenic foreboding, distracted cynicism, and dim view of human desire. Not even love gets a cautious embrace from this dry-eyed existentialist who seemed to think that la petite mort naturally leads to its grand conclusion and released a string of pearls, dangling amour fou before us with Manon (1949), La vérité (1960), and Woman in Chains (1968).

From his self-assured first feature, The Murderer Lives at Number 21 (1942), with its houseful of quirky suspects, through the ravenous Le corbeau (1943) and its contagion of accusation, to The Spies (1958), in which Cold War conflicts play out in a psychiatric ward, Clouzot has given us beautifully detailed and dispatched dramas that inspect the inky depths of society while lavishing us with the ironic pleasures of dread and disquiet. Don’t miss this chance to look in the darker corners of Clouzot’s career.

The Full Program

With the support of the Cultural Services of the General Consulate of France in San Francsico

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