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DIABOLIQUE
1954 - Henri Georges Clouzot
France
93
Opening Shot

Over the image of what look like a dark watery pit and creepy doomed music Diabolique opens with a quote from French writer Barbey d'Aurevilly: "A painting is always quite moral when it is tragic and it gives the horror of things it depicts". The shot then fades from black into the road where a truck is driving and enters through the gates of a boarding school.

The Film

Henri-Georges Clouzot's genius and vision can best be seen in this 1955 masterpiece. A film of such tension and suspense it's mind-blowing. Through fascinating visual techniques and cinematography, Clouzot absorbs the viewer into it's atmosphere. It's a film that gradually builds through it's characters, all while a chilling and dark undertone remains. Ultimately, Diabolique is a psychological and intellectual (and quite negative) examination of basic human nature. It's also a film of fear. The fear of a guilty conscience. The ending is deeply haunting and wickedly clever. What Psycho (made 5 years after this film) did for showers, Diabolique does for baths or more specifically (if not moreso). With masterful control of the camera, the acting (lead by his Clouzot's lovely wife Vera), compositions, and a definitive tone of irony and bitterness, Diabolique stands as the quintessential Clouzot masterwork. While Clouzot may never get the credit he deserves, he remains a masterful filmmaker, and this is Clouzot at the peak of his artistic vision as a filmmaker and the film stands a prime example dark psychological suspense thrillers. A classic not to be missed!!

The Filmmaker

Henri-Georges Clouzot was often referred to as 'The French Hitchcock' for mastery of suspense, horror, and sexual obsession. Rightfully so Clouzot didn't like the constant comparison and like Hitchcock he should be viewed as an original artist on his own. Hitchcock himself deeply respect Clouzot and though they shared similar themes and emotional responses with their films, the two have very different ways in which they approach them. Clouzot started as a screenwriter and he wrote most of the films he directed. His debut as a director came in 1942 (with The Murderer Lives at Number 21) but it was 1943's The Raven that marked attention. Made during the German occupation of France the film was inaccurately viewed as anti-French after the liberation and Clouzot was banned from work for a couple years. His next film was a change of pace for Clouzot, whose films are known for their cynical and depressing atmosphere. A skillfully made crime noir Quai des Orfevres became a critical and commercial hit in 1947. Clouzot would use this success to return to his more definitive filmmaking approach, which is often overpoweringly cruel, sour and ironic. Among this work would include his most remembered masterpieces: 1952's Wages of Fear and 1954's Diabolique, both of which could be considered among the greatest suspense films of all-time. These films capture quintessential Clouzot themes and dark, depressing atmospheric expression. Clouzot is very focused on characters and mood and has a way of making his unlikable characters likeable. His films blend this ironic and dark humor with an overall distrust and cruel humanity and they often end with very little closure. Clouzot's films are each masterfully made both visually and emotionally. I think when you look at his filmography as a whole you begin to admire not only his work, but Clouzot as a filmmaker. Due to heath problems Clouzot made very few films after the 1950s and even until his death in 1977 was overlooked and misunderstood as a filmmaker. The emergence of his films on DVD and time has begun to prove Clouzot as a unique and influential artist.

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