Friday, January 8, 2010

Henri-Georges Clouzot / 1964

This is a fragment of the documentary of the Henri-Georges Clouzot 1964 unfinished film ‘L’enfer’, with Romy Scneider and Serge Reggiani. To start this day with intriguing beauty.


The French director Henri-Georges Clouzot is renowned for suspenseful classics such as Le Salaire de la peur (in English, The Wages of Fear) and Diabolique. Now this incredible documentary gives us new appreciation for his creativity by bringing to light footage from his unfinished film L'Enfer. In 1964, Clouzot set out to direct the story of a husband, played by Serge Reggiani, who suffers bouts of paranoid jealousy over his new bride, played by the twenty-six-year-old Romy Schneider. Hollywood investors promised Clouzot an unlimited budget, which he spent experimenting with months of camera tests. As an art lover – his previous films included Le Mystère Picasso – Clouzot took inspiration from the kinetic and kaleidoscopic visuals that were emerging in galleries. L'Enfer's images were rumoured to be incredible, but the film was shut down three weeks into production and the footage went unseen for over forty years. 

Watching this film is like paging through a great artist's sketchbook. Clouzot sought to evoke a powerful eroticism through images as simple as that of Schneider puffing a cigarette (and just wait till you see how she handles a Slinky toy). Clouzot also wanted to visually convey the descent into madness. Without today's digital effects, he relied on the old-fashioned movie tools of cinematography, costuming and makeup. But the stress of his over-reaching ambition brought the production to an end.