In a squalid South American oil town, four desperate men sign on for a suicide mission to drive trucks loaded with nitroglycerin over a treacherous mountain route. As they ferry their explosive cargo to a faraway oil fire, each bump and jolt tests their courage, their friendship, and their nerves. The result is one of the greatest thrillers ever committed to celluloid, a white-knuckle ride from France’s legendary master of suspense, Henri-Georges Clouzot. —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 great study on manhood, excellently paced thanks to genre tropes mixed in the observation. reminded me a lot of my father and manhood as a clash between man and his surroundings, between man and machinery, man and fear. great oil painting, great fire painting, and in the end the camera won't even be able to hold the main character in the image.
A slow burner, but a creeping one. Western imperialist struggle in terrain Afrique: the Americans screwing over the Europeans, being screwed by the natives, newly liberated. A sizzling allegory for the post-war capitalist order; or, Clouzot’s warped rebuke of the 20th century colonial, economic migration - the languish, the suppressed diaspora - insomuch the crackling tensions of the first half may even edge the climactic adventure of the second. Its ending: delirious, harmonic delusion, extinguished.
A retrospective is on at MoMA through Christmas Eve and at the Harvard Film Archive through December 18.
Death in the Garden (Luis Buñuel, Mexico/France, 1956) is now playing on The Auteurs in the US for free. *** Above: Don't forget your lipstick
With the fragments of Henri-Georges Clouzot's never-completed L'enfer (1964) finally gathered together and released as part of the making-of
Out of town; my work takes me out of town. I empty villages. I burn their houses down. I set up factories. Lay out plantations And bring
Yawn? You have to be kidding me. The first act does start slow, more noticeable to me the first time I saw it, but after rewatching it I appreciate that aspect more, and the last two-thirds is unforgettably… read review
I prefer Sorceror.
In it’s day, I can easily see how this film would’ve been heralded as a dramatic masterpiece of tension and suspense, but – in the face of 56 more years of cinema where realism… read review
This film is the very definition of tension. The first hour of the film meticulously creates the grungy feeling that encapsulates the entire film, opening on a shot of a child torturing some cockroaches… read review