A mysterious writer of poison-pen letters, known only as Le corbeau (the Raven), plagues a French provincial town, unwittingly exposing the collective suspicion and rancor seething beneath the community’s calm surface. Made during the Nazi Occupation of France, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Le Corbeau was attacked by the Vichy regime, the Resistance press, the Catholic Church, and was banned after the Liberation. But some—including Jean Cocteau and Jean-Paul Sartre—recognized the powerful subtext to Clouzot’s anti-informant, anti-Gestapo fable, and worked to rehabilitate Clouzot’s directorial reputation after the war. Le Corbeau brilliantly captures a spirit of paranoid pettiness and self-loathing turning an occupied French town into a twentieth-century Salem. —The Criterion Collection
Acclaimed in particular for his thrillers, Clouzot was one of the genuine rivals to Alfred Hitchcock and, at his peak, seemed to anticipate the moves of the better-known English director. Born in 1907 in Niort, Clouzot intended upon a career in the French navy but was barred from that opportunity by poor eyesight and chronic ill health. He studied political science with the intention of joining the diplomatic service and he served on the staff of a Rightist political figure after graduation from college, but in the late ‘20s, Clouzot moved into writing, first as a journalist and, starting in the early ’30s, as a screenwriter and playwright. He co-authored numerous scripts between 1931 and 1933, in addition to making the short thriller La Terreur des Batignolles and serving as an assistant to several directors, including Anatole Litvak, E.A. Dupont, and Karl Hartl, on various projects. Clouzot’s initial start in films was interrupted in the mid-‘30s when his declining health forced him… read more
A dark, bitter masterpiece that's not only a damn fine thriller but a bold evisceration of Vichy France. Respected authority figures are exposed as villains, the Vichy ideal of the respectable family woman is undermined, and of course, the plot involving anonymous letters speaks to the reality of paranoia and denunciation prominent during the Occupation.
Excellent psychological drama scores with a razor sharp screenplay that deftly balances the complexities of its engrossing characters. There were moments that could have been played with a bit more tension rather than cold detachment, but that's a debatable creative choice. A classic.
In Clouzot’s first film, a detective and his girlfriend go undercover in a lodging house to catch a serial murderer.
A retrospective is on at MoMA through Christmas Eve and at the Harvard Film Archive through December 18.
Heavily backlit like some film noir fugitive, the towering figure of Father Christmas lurches towards us from the night, a bearded Frankenstein
Where to begin. Perhaps with Scott Foundas's introduction to "Serge Bromberg, who began fervently collecting films at age nine, and