Le Corbeau

"Very Good"

Le Corbeau Review


Henri-Georges Clouzot's Le Corbeau is a puzzle. Shot during the Nazi occupation of France in 1943, the film is a damnation of Gestapo inquisition tactics and, in a broader sense, of fascism in any form. But Clouzot's contemporaries saw it a different way. Ever the self-obsessed, French cineastes felt Clouzot was mocking provencial French society, with its backbiting and stringent (yet polite) class warfare. Attacked (or banned) by just about every political and religious group in the country, Le Corbeau ruined his reputation as a director for years. Later would it be interpreted correctly -- but the backlash against it pretty much proves that either way you want to look at the film, Clouzot was right.

Le Corbeau is a short and pointed film, never straying far from its central plot line. In a small village, mysterious letters are showing up just about everywhere. The anonymous letters allege the worst -- infidelities, alcoholism, abortions -- and no one is immune. Within days a witch hunt is underway, as the two figurehead leaders of the village, two doctors, launch an all-out campaign to uncover the "poison pen," whose alias is "Le Corbeau," aka "The Raven." Their quest culminates in an event obviously inspired by Nazi atrocities, as everyone in town is rounded up and forced to rewrite some of Le Corbeau's greatest hits all night long, the idea being that eventually, The Raven's true handwriting will be revealed, along with The Raven's identity.

Clouzot crafts scenes deftly -- as anyone familiar with his other works like Diabolique will know already -- in stark close-ups the focus our attention perfectly on a letter, an eyebrow, or a stream of tears. But Clouzot's intent to decry Nazism results in a thriller that isn't exactly stocked with surprises. Clouzot pulls a lot of stunts to turn our suspicions literally every major character, but they turn up a little flat. There's not a ton of logic to follow here, and by the final reveal the mystery becomes extremely forced. So-and-so's trying to get vengeance on so-and-so, but so-and-so knows this, and on and on a dozen levels deep. None of the characters are particularly likeable anyway, so why should we care which of them is The Raven?

Criterion's new DVD release of Le Corbeau includes an interview with director Bertrand Tavernier about Clouzot's work, and an excerpt from a 1975 documentary about French film during the German occupation.

Aka The Raven.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 9 mins

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

IMDB: 6.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer: René Montis,

Starring: as Le docteur Rémy Germain, as Denise Saillens, as Laura Vorzet, Héléna Manson as Marie Corbin, l'infirmière, Jeanne Fusier-Gir as La mercière, Sylvie as La mère du cancéreux, Pierre Bertin as le sous-préfet, Liliane Maigné as Rolande Saillens, Roger Blin as François, as Michel Vorzet, Antoine Balpêtré as le docteur Delorme, Louis Seigner as Bertrand, Noël Roquevert as Saillens, le directeur de l'école

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