Martin Teller's Movie Reviews

I watch movies, I write some crap

  • Recent Posts

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Meta

  • Advertisements

L’enfer d’Henri-Georges Clouzot

Posted by martinteller on December 28, 2012

Several years ago, I watched Claude Chabrol’s 1994 L’Enfer, an adaptation of an unproduced script by Henri-Georges Clouzot.  It was a mistake, actually… I thought I was getting the Tanovic adaptation of an unproduced Kieslowski script (the middle part of a thematic trilogy that starts with Heaven) of the same name.  I don’t recall much about the film, but my scant comments at the time indicate that I generally appreciated it, but like most Chabrol, wasn’t all that impressed.  It was an intense study of a man driven insane by jealousy when he suspects his wife of infidelity.

What I didn’t know was that in 1964, Clouzot attempted to make the film himself.  Inspired by op art, he shot hundreds of camera tests.  Many of them are incredible visions, utilizing optical effects, lighting and makeup to create wild, delirious paranoid visions.  Clouzot had meticulous storyboards, and geometrically designed sound patterns.  It was a vastly ambitious plan.  But when it came to shooting — with stars Romy Schneider and Serge Reggiani — he was crippled by a deadly combination of perfectionism and indecision.  His inability to stay remotely on schedule (particularly worrisome since their key location was due to be compromised) eventually unhinged the entire project.

It is a joy to see those camera tests and fragments of scenes and imagine what might have been.  It could have been a masterpiece… certainly some of the visual components are breathtaking if nothing else.  Or it could have been messy and indulgent.  It’s so hard to say.  While I loved seeing these bits, ultimately — like Lost in La Mancha — it adds up to frustration in the realization that we’ll never know what could have been.

The presentation is very nice.  The directors are very generous with the dazzling footage, and they intersperse it with the unfinished scenes, a pair of actors performing pieces of the script, and interviews with some of the key players.  Curiously, however, there is not a single word uttered about Chabrol’s version.  I suppose they wanted to keep it focused on Clouzot’s vision, but you’d think it would warrant at least a passing mention.  Still, it’s a pretty thorough and often fascinating look at how an artistic project can fall apart.  It made me want to revisit the Clouzot films I’ve already seen (all of which I enjoyed) and seek out the ones I haven’t.  Rating: Very Good (83)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: