Monday, October 28, 2013

Henri-Georges Clouzot: Les Diaboliques / Diabolique

Watching Henri-Georges Clouzot's Les Diaboliques / Diabolique (1955) many years after the first go round, what interests me more now is not the thriller-horror side of this classic film, but rather the more sociological-historical-cultural details. For instance, here's a school but a decade after the end of World War II. What is the same today, and what is different? It's a boarding school, there are droll teachers and there's a nasty headmaster. The kids are kids, half horrible and half empathetic and curious. The cafeteria food is cheap and mediocre. Punishment includes a command like "go stand in the corner," meaning literally, go stand in a corner and be quiet. Does this happen in schools anymore? Detention, yes. In the context of Les Diaboliques, there's fun in looking for such details. Compare Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, which came out about the same time (1954).
Then there's the central fact -- among the top brass of the school -- of a ménage à trois: Christina (Véra Clouzo), her husband Michel the headmaster (Paul Meurisse), and the "special lady friend" Nicole (Simone Signoret).  It's their fraught dynamic that drives the school and the arc of the story.

Clouzot's Le salaire de la peur / The Wages of Fear (1953) and Les Diaboliques (1955) have both inspired numerous remakes and variations in other languages and in other settings. Something about them sparks the imagination over the years -- certainly I never forgot the basics after first seeing them. One thing's for sure: we're not in Kansas anymore with these films. 

Today's Rune: Separation (Reversed).     


Charles Gramlich said...

That school sounds like it should have "The Wall" as the soundtrack.

Luma Rosa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Luma Rosa said...

Hi, Erik!
Legend has it that the book that gave rise to the film Diabolique, written by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, it almost had its rights bought by Alfred Hitchcock. Both directors perfectionists, Clouzot was able to say the right of the work by a matter of hours. Hitchcock later also adapted a book of double D'between les morts, who won the title of Vertigo.

We can say that Hitchcock perfected a genre that helped pave Clouzot. But apart from the comparison between directors, Diabolique is one of the best thrillers ever made. And best of all is the historical moment in which it is inserted, since the genre was bombarded by sci-fis, and here we see is a real boldness available, fleeing the standards of Puritanism Hollywood to throw open a love triangle dysfunctional, open relationships, masochism, lesbianism latent sexuality, misanthropy and misogyny.

The difference between them is that Hitchcock worked with a strictly psychological thriller, while Clouzot deepens the emotional thriller. When the movies that something is revealed, this revelation adds to the progress or resolution of the story, now this is no such need, because revelation can only come to detail the human frame that is put into play.
Two masters!

Good last of week!

jodi said...

Erik-was that movie ever redone? It sounds familiar somehow.