Sunday, 10 January 2010

L'Enfer d'Henri-Georges Clouzot, Serge Bromberg & Ruxandra Medrea, France 2009

L'Enfer d'Henri-Georges Clouzot is a documentary on the making of Clouzot's 1964 film, L'enfer, which was abondoned, primarily, due the director's heart attack. Clouzot's widow granted Bromberg and Medrea access to the surviving footage of the film which they made ample use of. Additionally, they drew on interviews with the cinematographer and other staff working with Clouzot on L'enfer.

Bromberg's and Medrea's film is highly revealing inasmuch as they make clear what a revolutionary work L'enfer would have become, had it been completed. Telling the story of a jealous husband, Clouzot's intention was to visualise the husband's paranoia, his obsession and increasingly wild imaginations, through experimental use of colour, lighting and editing, evoking German Expressionist cinema of the 1920s. Although Claude Chabrol remade L'enfer a good 30 years later, he refrained from employing any of Clouzot's techniques and instead shot it as a straight psychological drama starring Francois Cluzet and Emanuelle Beart.

But this documentary is also about Clouzot's dark side, showing that behind the genius there was an obsessive personality which certainly contributed to the film falling behind schedule and going way over budget, which in addition to Clouzot's eventual heart attack, contributed to the shoot being abandoned. Unfortunately, L'Enfer d'Henri-Georges Clouzot does not include comments by Clouzot's widow, Inez, nor by any major cast member, many of whom have passed, like Clouzot himself or Serge Reggiani, as well as of course, the wonderful Romy Schneider, who would have played the female lead, the object of Reggiani's obsession and jealousy. Although Schneider had already made a few films in France prior to L'enfer, working with Clouzot - who, unlike the Nouvelle Vague directors, was considered mainstream, yet his films were generally very well received - would have meant a major career leap. As it happened, following the abondoned L'enfer, Schneider's career went into slump, to be revived fours years and one marriage later, and once again, the place was France.