Friday, May 29, 2009

LES DIABOLIQUE (Henri-Geroges Clouzot, 1954, France) The brackish waters of deceit doom a murderous conspiracy as one woman’s morality is drowned in an empty swimming pool. Director Henry-George Clouzot’s drama suffocates the audience in a thick atmosphere of suspense, where the darkness seems to have life and substance. The setting is a children’s school run by the fascist headmaster Michel; he is married to Christina (who owns the school) and is having an open affair with Nicole, another teacher. He treats both with contempt using violence as a tool of power and control. Finally the two women conspire to kill Michel…but all is not what it seems. Clouzot has plotted a very Hitchockian thriller and uses beautiful black and white cinematography to create terror with chiaroscuro mise-en-scene. Clouzot lets silence overwhelm the audience so a creaking door or soft footstep is chilling, or the skeletal clacking of a typewriter that sends the heart racing. The contrast between Christina and Nicole creates narrative frisson because the wife is an ex-nun, a highly moral woman who believes that murder (no matter how justified) is a hellish sin while Nicole is a femme fatale whose own ends justifies the means. The bumbling inspector seems to be a role model for peter Faulk’s Columbo and his presence haunts the background until the fateful climax. Michel is such an unsympathetic character that we applaud his demise…and shiver at his reprise. (A)


James Gracey said...

Great review - I really love your writing style. Keep it up!

Alex DeLarge said...

Thank you very much:)