Wednesday, 16 December 2009

L'enfer by Clouzot

Today I saw the new French documentary L'enfer d'Henri-Georges Clouzot, about Henri-Georges Clouzot's unfinished film L'enfer (1964). The documentary in itself wasn't particularly stimulating, and the praising of Clouzot was to me a bit annoying since I think he's a director with some clear weaknesses, such as a self-inflated gloominess which might be sincere but sometimes comes across as mere posing. (Hasse Ekman did a very good parody of Clouzot's The Wages of Fear (Le salaire de la peur 1953) in his film from 1956, Ratataa.)

What was interesting though was the scenes that were shown in the documentary which Clouzot had actually shot before filming was cancelled. They are striking, and also highly erotic in a voyeuristic way. There was one scene of a naked Romy Schneider tied to a railway track with an approaching train stopping just a few centimetres from here. Clouzot was in this film aiming to visualise the subconscious, with use of weird colours, distorted angles, shapes and forms. It looks good, but it might not have worked for an entire film, in the sense that too much distortion and weirdness might have a numbing effect. I did also remind me of Stanley Donen's Arabesque (1966).

One scene in particular was interesting because it was a seamless juxtaposition of two faces in to one, just as Bergman does two years later in Persona (1966), with the faces of Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullman. Here it was the faces of Serge Reggiani and Jean-Claude Bercq, and of Schneider and Reggiani, and it was even more startling than in Persona. Is it possible that Bergman had seen things from or heard about Clouzot's film?

One thing puzzled me while watching the documentary. Everything about Clouzot's script was so familiar, and halfway through the film I understood why. Claude Chabrol made a film called L'enfer in 1994, with Emmanuelle Béart and Francois Cluzet, which I saw a few years ago. And it's based on Clouzot's script. But this film wasn't mentioned in the documentary. Why not?

(By the way, today's Liv Ullman's birthday. I hope it's been a happy one!)

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