Clouzot, Henri-Georges

views updated

CLOUZOT, Henri-Georges

Nationality: French. Born: Niort, 20 November 1907. Education: Ecole Navale, Brest. Family: Married Vera Amado Gibson, 1950 (died 1960). Career: As reporter for Paris-Midi, offered job in film industry while interviewing Adolphe Osso, 1930; assistant to Carmine Gallone, Anatole Litvak, and others, 1930–34; contracted pleurisy, confined to sanatoriums, 1934–38; reentered film industry as writer, 1938; directed first film, L'Assassin habite au 21, 1942. Awards: Best Director, Venice Festival, for Quai des Orfèvres, 1947; Grand Prix, Cannes Festival, for Le Salaire de la peur, 1953; Prix Louis Delluc, for Les Diaboliques, 1955; Jury Prize, Cannes Festival, for Le Mystère Picasso, 1956; Oscar for Best Foreign Film, for La Vérité, 1960. Died: 12 January 1977.

Films as Director:


La Terreur des Batignolles (short)


L'Assassin habite au vingt-et-un (+ co-sc)


Le Corbeau (+ co-sc)


Quai des Orfèvres (+ co-sc)


Manon (+ co-sc)


"Le Retour de Jean" in Retour à la vie (+ co-sc); Miquette et sa mère (+ co-sc)


Le Salaire de la peur (+ sc)


Les Diaboliques (+ co-sc)


Les Espions (+ co-sc)


Le Mystère Picasso


La Vérité (+ sc)


La Prisonnière (+ sc)

Other Films:


Ma Cousine de Varsovie (Gallone) (co-sc); Un Soir de Rafle (Gallone) (adaptation); Je serai seule après minuit (de Baroncelli) (co-sc): Le Chanteur inconnu (Tourjansky) (co-adapt)


Le Roi des palaces (Gallone) (co-sc); Le Dernier Choc (de Baroncelli) (co-sc); La Chanson d'une nuit (French language version of Anatole Litvak's Das Lied einer Nacht) (co-adapt, dialogue); Faut-il les marier? (French version of Carl Lamac's Die grausame Freundin, co-d with Pierre Billon) (adapt, dialogue)


Caprice de princesse (French version of Karl Hartl's Ihre Durchlacht, die Verkäuferin) (adapt, assoc d, ed, sc); Chateau de rêve (French version of Geza von Bolvary's Das Schloss im Süden) (sc, adapt, assoc d, ed); Tout pour l'amour (French version of Joe May's Ein Lied für dich) (sc, adapt, co-dialogue, lyrics, assoc d)


Itto d'Afrique (Benoit-Lévy) (lyrics)


Le Révolté (Mathot) (co-sc, lyrics, dialogue)


Le Duel (Fresnay) (co-sc, lyrics, dialogue); Le Monde tremblera (La Révolté des vivants) (Pottier) (co-sc, lyrics, dialogue)


Le Dernier des six (Lacombe) (lyrics, dialogue); Les Inconnus dans la maison (Decoin) (co-adapt, lyrics, dialogue)


Si tous les gars du monde . . . (Christian-Jaque) (co-adapt)


By CLOUZOT: books—

Le Corbeau, with Louis Chavance, Paris, 1948.

Retour à la vie, with others, Paris, 1949.

Le Cheval des dieux, Paris, 1951.

By CLOUZOT: articles—

"Le Salaire de la peur," in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), no. 17, 1962.

"Quai des Orfèvres," in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), no. 29, 1963.

"Voix off: Clouzot," interview with Claire Clouzot, in Cinéma (Paris), May 1965.

"An Interview with Henri-Georges Clouzot," with Paul Schrader, in Cinema (Beverly Hills), no. 4, 1969.

"Haberezhnaia luvelirov," in Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), no. 2, 1993.

On CLOUZOT: books—

Chalais, François, H.-G. Clouzot, Paris, 1950.

Lacassin, Francis, and others, Le Procès Clouzot, Paris, 1964.

Pilard, Philippe, H.-G. Clouzot, Paris, 1969.

Armes, Roy, French Cinema since 1946: Vol.1—The Great Tradition, New York, 1970.

On CLOUZOT: articles—

Tennant, Sylvia, "Henri-Georges Clouzot," in Film (London), March/April 1956.

Bianchi, Pietro, "Henri-Georges Clouzot," in Yale French Studies (New Haven, Connecticut), Summer 1956.

Marilen, Jacques, "Dangers et vertus de l'orfèverie," in Positif (Paris), November 1956.

Berger, John, "Clouzot as Delilah," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1958.

Sety, Gerard, "Clouzot: He Plans Everything from Script to Screen," in Films and Filming (London), December 1958.

Fontaine, A., "Clouzot sort de sa légende," in Lettres Françaises (Paris), July 1960.

Beylie, Claude, obituary in Ecran (Paris), February 1977.

Lacourbe, R., "Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1907–1977," in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), 15 April 1977.

Yakir, Dan, "Clouzot: The Wages of Film," in Film Comment (New York), November/December 1981.

Listener (London), 15 October 1987.

Ciné Revue (Paris), 29 October 1987.

Zimmer, J., "Henri-Georges Clouzot," in Revue de la Cinémathèque (Montreal), no. 474, September 1991.

Jeancolas, J.-P., "Clouzot en 1991," in Positif (Paris), no. 374, April 1992.

* * *

In a country like France where good taste is so admired, Henri-Georges Clouzot has been a shocking director. A film critic during the age of surrealism, Clouzot was always eager to assault his audience with his style and concerns.

Like so many others, Clouzot found his chance to move from scriptwriting to directing during the Occupation, a time when there was a paucity of directors in France. His first effort, L'Assassin habite au 21, was a safe film. Its script followed two similar films he had written which had been well received by audiences. These witty police dramas were exercises in style and cleverness, befitting the epoch. Le Corbeau, made the next year, was in contrast a shattering film, unquestionably hitting hard at the society of the war years. Retaining all the conventions of the thriller, Clouzot systematically exposed the physical and psychological grotesqueries of every character in the film. A grim picture of small-town mores, Le Corbeau was condemned by the Nazis and French patriots alike.

When the war ended Clouzot found himself barred from the industry for two years by the "purification committee," an industry-appointed watchdog group that self-righteously judged complicity with the Germans. Clouzot's crime was to have made films for a German-financed company, though he was officially arraigned on charges of having maligned the French character and having demoralized the country during its dark hours. But even at this time many critics claimed that Le Corbeau was the only authentically engaged film made during the entire Occupation.

When he did resume his career, Clouzot's grim view of life had not improved. Both Quai des Orfèvres and his 1948 adaptation of Manon emulated American film noir with their lowlife settings. Both are extremely well acted, but ultimately small works.

Clouzot's fame in the United States came in the mid-1950s when The Wages of Fear and Diabolique gave him a reputation as a French Hitchcock, interested in the mechanics of suspense. In France, however, these films, especially Diabolique, were seen as only well-made studio products. His 1960 La Vérité, starring Brigitte Bardot, was designed to win him favor in the youth culture of the time, which was obsessed by New Wave life and movies. While the film outgrossed its New Wave competition, its cloyingly paternalistic style showed how far Clouzot was from the spontaneity of the New Wave. The cafe scenes in the film are insincere, and the inevitable indictment of society rings false.

All of Clouzot's films, even up to the 1968 La Prisonnière, were financial successes, but in the end he ceased being the instrumental force in the film industry he had been twenty years earlier.

—Dudley Andrew