Le Corbeau is a movie about selling out your friends for personal gain. Maybe. Well, that's how the original audience read it, which is why it was deemed "anti-French" and banned, along with its director Henri-Georges Clouzot, for life. Despite getting him labeled as a collaborator while simultaneously angering the Nazis, the resistance, and the church, that lifetime ban was actually only a few years with the release of Quai des Orfrevres.
Some people call Henri-Georges Clouzot the French Alfred Hitchcock, but that's a culturally myopic position: Hitchcock is the pale British imitation of Henri-Georges Clouzot.
Quai des Orfevres (1947) is just another example of why that's true, not just in Clouzot's mastery of suspense but also in the fact that there just aren't any flat characters in the film. It's nearly perfect and truly art.
The Wages of Fear (1953) is a weird sort of suspense film, because of what it it's not. It's not a mystery; it's not a spy thriller; it's not a horror movie. It's just a suspenseful ride over a mountain on 10 tons of nitroglycerin. That sounds like a simile a bad reviewer might use for an action thriller, but it's the plot of The Wages of Fear. And on top of that nitro Clouzot builds a deep character study on what exactly those Wages can be. Two and a half hours of tension ratcheted to its snapping point. Pat and I nearly break and discuss why some movies just need to be seen with other people in this week's Lost in Criterion.
Alfred Hitcchcock's title of Master of Suspense is well deserved. Henri-Georges Clouzot outshines him in both this week's Lost in Criterion and next's. The first episode brings us his 1955 masterpiece Diabolique, which (the story goes) he bought the rights to out from under his English-speaking counterpart by just a few hours. Psycho earns the acclaim hurled upon it, but it's in deep debt to Diabolique. Plus any movie that ends with a title card begging audiences not to give away the ending while simultaneously having an ending that you can't possibly keep to yourself has got to be pretty high on the all time greats list. Watch Diabolique (1955), then listen to Lost in Criterion.