Le Corbeau (1943)
Cast: Pierre Fresnay, Ginette LeClerc, Micheline Francey, Helena Manson, Jeanne Fusier-Gir, Sylvie
Director: Henri- George Clouzot
Nutshell: a village in an anonymous community, “Anywhere” is besieged with suspicion and mistrust as a series of letters bring the darkest and ugliest secrets of a variety of dwellers to light resulting. Suspicion grows hand in hand with a wave of hatred and intolerance as one by one the suspects are narrowed down.
Le Corbeau, Henri-George Clouzot’s 1943 film was met with outrage upon its initial release and withdrawn by successive Right- and Left-wing Vichy governments in France and Clouzot himself was barred from making any further films for a lifetime. Gradually the film gained its rightful place among his finest work and his career was back on track after the likes of Jean Paul Sartre and Jean Cocteau amongst others acclaimed it as a fine film noir that perfectly captures the aura of suspicion that was a mark of the way the Gestapo and subsequently a number of Totalitarian regimes operated by spreading fear, suspicion and doubt. Indeed, very frequently the most vulnerable and downtrodden of society’s lot would be the ones to suffer most.
Clouzot’s Film Noir, taut and gripping and expertly shot brilliantly captures a community falling apart and crumbling away – a prey to the cancer like suspicion that spreads among them bringing out the worst characteristics of self-preservation in people in the form of blame and pettiness to the extreme. Fingers are pointed, tongues wag and a venom and poison pollute the air causing misery, death and horrifying witch-hunts.
The film was highly controversial mostly because it hit a nerve which was so close to reality that governments of the day saw it as dangerously subversive and no doubt questioning their own methods and intentions. Clouzot’s career was effectively killed by this gripping and strongly performed film but he recovered to go onto further masterful work such as Les Diaboliques and The Wages of Fear, consolidating his reputation as a film maker of the highest calibre given the title of “The French Hitchcock” by some in respect of his cinematic mastery.
A film that is essential viewing for historians as well as for those who admire the finest Film Noir which this undoubtedly is.