Sophie Kopaczynski (Studiocanal)
(In case of rain, the screening will take place at Cinema Arlecchino and will substitute the evening encore)
After the Liberation, Henri-Georges Clouzot was blacklisted because considered guilty of making a ‘derogatory’ film about France like Le Corbeau (1943). This unfair judgment was confirmed in 1946, and he was forbidden from being on any set for another two years. The producer Tolia Eliacheff, however, managed to bring an early end to Clouzot’s ban and proposed he make a crime movie. The director recalled “an excellent novel by the great Belgian pro Steeman, Légitime défense, which I read some time ago and it left a deep impression on me”. Clouzot had already adapted two stories by Stanislav-André Steeman (for Georges Lacombe’s Le Dernier des six, 1941, and his debut film L’Assassin habite au 21, 1942), and this time too he kept an open mind as he worked, changing the film’s narrative point of view, the setting and the final phase of the investigations, including the murderer’s identity. Although the screenplay was written quickly with Jean Ferry, the storyboard – developed by Clouzot himself with production designer Max Douy – took two months plus research on atmosphere and details that the director undertook personally by spending weeks with police in the real Quai des Orfèvres, which, being the closed and squalid place that it was, became one of the film’s two settings. The other was the underworld of Paris music-halls, photographers and impresarios. The police investigation led by disenchanted, poor and lame deputy inspector Antoine is a pretext for painting a lurid and bitter picture of postwar France, shot in the stark contrast and cold of a caustic Christmas atmosphere where an unforgettable crowd of fiery figures hangs about – from the victim, the depraved impresario Brignon, to the jealous pianist Martineau, from the sensual and flirtatious coquette Jenny Lamour to Dora the photographer, a lesbian character who, interestingly, is not depicted negatively. Clouzot worked in great harmony with a godly figure like Louis Jouvet, who was indifferent about film and publicly praised his method, while he did not hesitate to use physical violence – also part of his ‘method’ – towards Bernard Blier and Suzy Delair, who also sings a playful song in the movie, Le Petit Tra-La-La, which contributed to its international success.
Cast and Credits
Sog.: dal romanzo Légitime défense di Stanislas-André Steeman. Scen.: Henri-Georges Clouzot, Jean Ferry. F.: Armand Thirard. M.: Charles Bretoneiche. Scgf.: Max Douy. Mus.: Francis Lopez, Albert Lasry. Int.: Suzy Delair (Jenny Lamour), Louis Jouvet (l’ispettore Antoine), Simone Renant (Dora), Bernard Blier (Maurice Martineau), Claudine Dupuis (Manon), Charles Dullin (Brignon), Jeanne Fusier- Gir (Pâquerette), Pierre Larquey (Emile), Raymond Bussières (Albert). Prod.: Roger De Venloo, Louis Wipf per Majestic Films. DCP. Bn.
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