Friday, December 25, 2009

#227: Le Corbeau

(Henri-George Clouzot, 1943)

Clouzot made two of my favorite thrillers of all time, the peerless Wages of Fear - perhaps the most suspenseful movie I've ever seen - and the deliciously creepy Diabolique. Scratch that, Clouzot made three of my favorite thrillers of all time, because you can add Le Corbeau to that list.

The film centers around a mysterious person who begins sending letters to the inhabitants of a small village in France. These letters reveal secrets about the people in the town, and soon everyone is suspecting everyone else. The letters are signed Le Corbeau: the raven.

Le Corbeau was made during the Nazi occupation of France, and the metaphor here - where everyone's secret allegiances turn friend against friend - is subtly evoked. But the more topical theme must be that of abortion. The film begins with the lead character, Dr. Germain, emerging from a home to explain to a mother that her daughter is going to live, but he had to let the baby die in order to save her life. There aren't many American films from the 40s that begin with the protagonist performing an abortion.

The film's central mystery is what drives the film, though, and the subtle ways in which the characters play off of each other, matched with the unraveling sanity of the town, is brilliant. It's the kind of suspense only someone as skilled as Clouzot could pull off. Here, in the early years of noir, is a film that is almost defiantly joined to the genre, a dark film about dark themes that strives for redemption.

No comments:

Post a Comment