Monday, May 9, 2011

Diabolique

aka Les Diaboliques
Henri-Georges Clouzot, France, 1955, bw (8.7*)
In this classic French suspense film, Michel (Paul Meurisse), the principal of a boarding school for boys has a wife Nicole (Simone Signoret), and a mistress Christina (Vera Clouzot, the Brazilian wife of the director), who are both teachers at the school. Michel is abusive, and his wife convinces the mistress to help her murder him.

Things go well at first, and like most crime films, things start to go wrong. First the husband's body goes missing, and then a retired police inspector shows up who is determined to help Nicole find her missing husband. He seems to be interested in Nicole himself, so he won't leave her alone.

This film is pretty Hitchcockian in its own way, it's just missing his trademark humor and brevity. This film doesn't spend much time developing the plot, it dives right in. It's actually more sophisticated than most murder films; it's more psychological than pathological, and displays more suspense (and no gore) than American murder films. It was actually poorly remade here with Sharon Stone, but I would definitely skip that poor imitation.

Diabolique is No. 182 on the IMDB 250, and won 3 awards. Director Clouzot directed the classic The Wages of Fear, also The Raven, made at the end of World War II, about a poison pen letter writer in a small town. Each of these films is a classic in its own way.

Véra Clouzot and Simone Signoret in Diabolique

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.



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