“You’ll be lovelier each day, with fabulous pink Camay.”

Fiona my partner’s one piece of film criticism to date is a profile of Henri-Georges Clouzot for the Great Directors series at Senses of Cinema, here. A traveling retrospective of his work prompted me to trespass on the same territory, so I’ve contributed a different-but-related overview to Moving Image Source. Think of them as an endearingly odd couple…

The BBC once ran a series of five minute interstitial shows called Close Up, in which celebrities picked favourite film scenes — George Romero picked the opening of TAKES OF HOFFMANN (Robert Helpmann weaving between three chairs), Marcel Ophuls picked the masked dancer from his father Max’s LE PLAISIR, and British Labour politician Dennis Healey picked the climax of LES DIABOLIQUES, and did a remarkable impersonation of undead Paul Meurisse, without the end of ping-pong ball contact lenses. I wish I had a copy.

24 Responses to ““You’ll be lovelier each day, with fabulous pink Camay.””

  1. Nice pic of Grover Norquist meeting his richly deserved end.

  2. Ah, but Paul Meurisse has the magnificent stringy neck of a turtle, and GN has no neck at all.

  3. Quite true. He’s one the “No-Neck Monsters” Tennessee Williams described in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

  4. Of course, Dennis Healey does have the advantage of his own personalized special effect eyebrows to distract from the lack of ping pong balls. Terrific Clouzot piece, by the way. I need to catch up on the few gaps in my viewing there; I wanted to read Manon Lescaut before seeing the film, out of curiosity, but I’m finding the book to be such a drag it’s hard to stay committed.

  5. David Boxwell Says:

    New York’s Museum of Modern Art has an upcoming Complete Clouzot cycle. The most entertainingly misanthropic auteur, ever!

  6. One piece Fiona talked about which I didn’t: Clouzot’s episode of Retour a la Vie, perhaps the most compassionate of his films — and the only one he didn’t have a hand in writing (the great Charles Spaak scripted). This is showing in the retrospective, and it should be regarded as unmissable.

  7. Tony Williams Says:

    Excellent analysis, Fiona, in SENSES OF CINEMA. Yes, Clouzot is very neglected . I’m running LE COURBEAU and DIABOLIQUES in my French film Noir class next semester and will cite your article.

  8. Thank you so much Tony! I’m glad the piece has been of some use to someone.

  9. Tony Williams Says:

    Fiona, I thought it was very informative and well written. You should consider doing more.

  10. I ahve a pice on the unfinished L’Enfer that Fandor will be running shortly.

  11. Excellent. Have you seen La Prisonniere? It does offer some clues to how Clouzot might have pieced together his narrative and non-narrative elements, although I have a suspicion the pop art madness would have had a more prominent role in L’Enfer.

  12. I went to see Miquette et sa mère last night, given that it doesn’t exactly appear with any regularity, and I think that one of its biggest problems is the fact that it’s hard to understand it as a “film by Clouzot.” Obviously, it’s an imperfect film, but I think that’s exacerbated by our sense that it doesn’t fit into what is otherwise a fairly coherent oeuvre. Approached from a different angle – that of an early Bourvil performance, or enjoyed simply as a fairly well-wrought farce – I thought it worked surprisingly well, and I really liked the camera movement in some of the onstage/offstage transitions. It was a pleasure, in any case, to see the fairly substantial crowd in fits of giggles at some of the sillier moments.

  13. Yes I’ve seen La Prisonnier and it’s excellent. it utilizes some of the visual ideas he was devloping for L’Enfer. But L’Enfer was an obsessional work that devoured Clouzot. That’s what makes it so fascinating.

  14. I only realized recently that Miquette is a remake of a 30s work, making it even less personal to Clouzot. I enjoyed the intertitles and Jouvet.

    As the story of L’Enfer unfolds in the documentary, one does start to wonder if it was ever intended to be finished, or if it was conceived as an instrument of self-torture for its filmmaker.

  15. The Miquette intertitles were terrific; as soon as the first one appeared I was thinking of Shadowplay Sundays!

    I looked up the credits beforehand and saw the play had been made twice before, but it was only today I noticed that Michel Simon had played the Jouvet role in the first version, which seems to have disappeared from view.

  16. I’d be very interested in seeing the 1934 version if anybody out there has a copy…

  17. L’Enfer is definitely a self-torture machine. He wants to get rid of everyone so that he can be alone with Romy.

    And who can blame him?

  18. I guess if you’re GOING to have a massive heart attack, watching Romy Schneider and Dany Carrell making out is the way to do it.

  19. Manon seems to be the one film of Clouzot’s dismissed most often. Cecile Aubry went on to make The Black Rose here in the States for Fox, co-starring with Tyrone Power, but evidently American audiences were unimpressed with her, since this was to be her sole US film. In fact, her career consisted of only nine films altogether. After Quai des Orfevres this film must have seemed a letdown, no Suzy Delair with her joie de vivre or Jouvet with his commanding gravitas. I think the film’s greatest asset is its cinematography. I recall when I first acquired it I gave the film a quick glimpse chapter by chapter, and as I did so I was delighted by what I saw, impressed with its consistent visual quality. And the ending is VERY memorable, and while it doesn’t quite make up for the rest of the film’s shortcomings it really must be seen.

  20. I watched Manon the other day and just re-read your Moving Image Source piece, which I thoroughly enjoyed. You suggest that Manon film was a commercial failure, but I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate. It wasn’t as big a success as Quai des Orfèvres, to be sure, but given the nature of the material and the lack of a major star, it was still a very respectable success, featuring in the top ten for 1949, and selling almost as many tickets in France as Les Diaboliques did a few years later.

    I’m trying to order a couple of French-language books on Clouzot through inter-library loan to see if they shed any additional light on his decision to make Miquette et sa mère immediately afterwards; I agree with you that it’s the opposite of his usual material, but I’m not sure that the panic of commercial failure is the primary explanation for his taking the helm there.

  21. Interesting. Miquette gets even harder to explain, unless Clouzot simply needed money, or else his recent success emboldened him to try unsuitable material, believing he could triumph over it…

  22. With no evidence whatsoever at this point, I’m guessing money or some contractual obligation. Of course, he did meet Vera during the filming of Miquette so it wasn’t a complete loss.

  23. His niece, Claire Clouzot, who works for the Cannes Film fest, appeared in Edinburgh with the retrospective — she didn’t seem to know how Miquette came about, though she deplored it.

  24. Well, it’s just an unhelpful entry in his auteurist career, isn’t it?! I find it most amusing to think of Miquette as the family shame.

    I imagine some tense, claustrophobic scene wherein Christian-Jaque and Autant-Lara reveal that they’ll publish evidence of Clouzot’s darkest secret unless he takes over the misbegotten project with the stuff of directorial nightmares, the wicked Bourvil.

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