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Clouzot: Early Works

Kino // Unrated // November 20, 2018
List Price: $37.49 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Neil Lumbard | posted January 14, 2019 | E-mail the Author



http-equiv="content-type">
Clouzot: The Early Works Blu-ray Review


style="margin-bottom: 0in; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; widows: 2; text-decoration: none;"
align="left">
face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">Henri-Georges
Clouzot (The Wages of Fear, Diabolique)
is considered
one of the masters of French cinema. The filmmaker has a master's eye
for visual storytelling. His most cherished works clearly demonstrate
Clouzot's artistic brushstrokes as a director are uniquely his own.
With several classic films made during his legacy as a director he is
an artist who has undeniably made a mark in the pantheon of
filmmaking history.


style="margin-bottom: 0in; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; widows: 2; text-decoration: none;"
align="left">
face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">Clouzot:
The Early Works
is an interesting compilation of some of the
filmmaker's earliest forays into filmmaking. This set showcases his
beginnings as a filmmaker when he worked as a screenwriter for
dialogue adaptations and as an assistant director. It also includes
his directorial debut, The Terror of Batignolles
(1931), a
short film that only hints at what was to come from Clouzot.


style="margin-bottom: 0in; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; widows: 2; text-decoration: none;"
align="left">
face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">As
with other master filmmakers who started their prolific careers
during the early era of studio filmmaking (such as the brilliant
Alfred Hitchcock), Clouzot's earliest filmmaking demonstrate his
finesse for the art and craft while only giving a glimpse of his
later brilliance. Before making classics like The Wages of
Fear

he had to learn the ropes of filmmaking. This set showcases his
growth from a novice to a skilled filmmaking who would one day become
an auteur.


style="margin-bottom: 0in; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; widows: 2; text-decoration: none;"
align="left">
face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">There's
a certain sense that the features included in this set demonstrate
the studio's workmanlike production flow with several of the films
featuring similar recurring themes (storylines focusing on singers
and taking place around the ocean). Indeed, most of the films in the
set were produced in one year (1931) and share a resemblance to the
assembly-line feeling of early Hollywood-era productions: utilizing
some of the production-team, cast, and similar story-lines/locations
to churn out one film after another for theaters.


style="margin-bottom: 0in; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; widows: 2; text-decoration: none;"
align="left">
face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">Despite
the feeling that these films are primarily studio efforts more-so
than the efforts of a singular artistic voice, the films in the set
are interesting (sometimes baffling) and are worth watching as an
early look into the developing style of Clouzot. None are brilliant
but a few of the films are quite enjoyable nonetheless. These early
French films offer an interesting glimpse at Clouzot's early
associated works.


color="#222222"> face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="font-weight: normal;"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">Dragnet
Night
color="#222222"> face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="font-style: normal;"> style="font-weight: normal;"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">
(1931) was directed by Carmine Gallone (
color="#222222"> face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="font-weight: normal;"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">The
Life of Giuseppe Verdi
color="#222222"> face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="font-style: normal;"> style="font-weight: normal;"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">).
It is the first film in the set. The storyline focuses on a singer,
Georget (Albert Prejean) and his romantically blossoming relationship
with a beautiful singer named Mariette (Annabella). The pair are on a
date together when Georget accidentally stumbles into a boxing
career. Their date-night boxing event turns into the singer switching
careers. As the romantic-comedy continues the film has beautifully
framed cinematography from Leonce-Henri Burel (
color="#222222"> face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="font-weight: normal;"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">Diary
of a Country Priest
color="#222222"> face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="font-style: normal;"> style="font-weight: normal;"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">).


color="#222222"> face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="font-style: normal;"> style="font-weight: normal;"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">In
fact, it's the stunning cinematography that is most impressive: the
film has many fascinating shots which look far more modern and
experimental than one would expect in an early 1930's feature.
color="#333333"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">The
style="text-decoration: none;"> face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="font-style: normal;"> style="font-weight: normal;"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">story
and some of the dialogue was written by Clouzot. The story-line is
charming and sweet. In my opinion,
color="#222222"> face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="font-weight: normal;"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">Dragnet
Night
color="#222222"> face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="font-style: normal;"> style="font-weight: normal;"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">
is the best picture in the entire set: a moving and surprisingly
vital drama which takes center stage around the boxing ring.


style="margin-bottom: 0in; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; widows: 2; text-decoration: none;"
align="left">
face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">The
second film in the collection, I'll Be Alone After Midnight
(1931) is my least favorite in the entire bunch. It's certainly a
film that I'm unlikely to forget any time soon, though. Only French
filmmakers could even come up with a film like this one: a strange
comedy which entirely focuses on adultery for it's comedy. It's
lighthearted comedic tone completely betrays the more serious nature
of the story-line. I've never seen a film before so casually make a
joke out of affairs. To think it's a black-and-white film made during
the 1930's is surprising.


style="margin-bottom: 0in; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; widows: 2; text-decoration: none;"
align="left">
face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">The
entire film is about adultery, divorce, and the nature of affairs.
With a comic spin. As it's supposed to be funny to see these
characters bounce around between each other. Literally, the entire
cast of characters are having affairs with each other (or are wanting
to). It makes for an unpleasant viewing experience. The film's cast
of Mireillie Perrey, Pierre Bertin, Emile Saint-Ober, and Marcel
Barencey seem totally invested in their respective roles, too.


style="margin-bottom: 0in; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; widows: 2; text-decoration: none;"
align="left">
face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">Directed
by Jacques de Barconcelli (Island Fisherman), this
film is a
workmanlike farce which doesn't succeed. Clouzot was one of the
writers who worked on the script adaptation. Unfortunately, the film
does not even remotely resemble his later works or give a glimpse of
what would later come in his career. It's a film that is only
memorable for being outlandish for a production made in the 1930's.


style="margin-bottom: 0in; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; widows: 2; text-decoration: none;"
align="left">
face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">The
Unknown Singer
(1931) takes a different course. The film
focuses
on the somewhat surprising journey taken by an ordinary fisherman.
Claude Ferval (Lucien Muratore) is a fisherman at sea who manages to
become a singer. The story is about his journey along the way. The
film is a rather light, comedic piece has plenty of music to boot.
While it's not the most engaging story, the filmmaking is
entertaining and effective. Clouzot contributed to the script. The
music score by Rene Sylviano (One Step to Eternity)
is a
charming contribution. Directed by Victor Tourjansky (The
Governor
), the film is light fun and is most enjoyable during
the
music-oriented scenes: the jazz-infused style gives a nice and laid
back style you can't help but enjoy.


style="margin-bottom: 0in; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; widows: 2; text-decoration: none;"
align="left">
face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">The
next spotlighted effort in the collection is The Terror of
Batignolles
(1931). The short film marks the directorial
debut of
Clouzot. With a screenplay written by Jacques de Baroncelli (La
Reve
), it's unfortunate that it does not display the
greatness of
the filmmaker's later works. As a debut film, it shows an
understanding of the craft of filmmaking but not much more.


style="margin-bottom: 0in; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; widows: 2; text-decoration: none;"
align="left">
face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">Though
the piece aims to be a humorous comedy, the story deals with
discussion on suicide and other serious subject matters. These
matters feel trivialized by the comedic-tone of the filmmaking. This
is something that was a drawback for me The short focuses on the
strange happenstance of a burglar and an unusual encounter he has
during the course of the film.


style="margin-bottom: 0in; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; widows: 2; text-decoration: none;"
align="left">
face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">My
Cousin from Warsaw
(1931), directed by Carmine Gallone (who
also
did Dragnet Night, which is another film featured
in this set),
features a story which Clouzot contributed to with dialogue. In this
film, an opera composer by the name of Archibald (Gustave Gallet)
goes to visit a therapist and the meeting turns into a nightmare of
events with the singer finding out about an affair going on with his
wife. Featuring score music by Artur Guttmann and cinematography by
Curt Courant, this is one of the collections least interesting films.
The story-line isn't particularly enjoyable and the film feels quite
rushed and ineffective.


style="margin-bottom: 0in; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; widows: 2; text-decoration: none;"
align="left">
face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">Tell
Me Tonight
(1932) is a more engaging dramatic effort with
some
subtle comedy thrown into the mix. The film was adapted by Clouzot
(featuring his own dialogue) from a script by Irma Von Cube (Street
of Shadows
). Directed by Anatole Litvak (The Snake
Pit
),
the story explores the career of an opera singer, Enrico Ferraro (Jan
Kiepura), as they try to juggle working with a very overbearing
manager. The film has music by M. Spoliansky and cinematography by
Robert Barberske, Willy Goldberger, and Fritz Arno Wagner.


style="margin-bottom: 0in; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; widows: 2; text-decoration: none;"
align="left">
face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">In
the most traditional "Hollywood" style film in the collection,
Dream Castle, the storyline features a director on a
mission
to make a motion-picture at sea. The film is a sort of light comic
truffle about the trials and tribulations the filmmakers face while
working with the lead actress and cast and crew. While trying (with
persistence) to put together the film, the filmmakers must assemble a
legion of extras on their sea-escapade.


style="margin-bottom: 0in; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; widows: 2; text-decoration: none;"
align="left">
face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">Dream
Castle
(1933) turns into a romantic-comedy-drama that feels
unlike any of the other films in the collection, with a romance
between the film star (whose key role in the film-within-a-film is
that of a prince) with a local girl met while out on sea named
Beatrix (Danielle Darrieux). Directed by Geza Von Bolvary (with
assistant direction by Clouzot) the film is a charming (if light)
truffle of a film that has a good nature to it. The screenplay
written by Hans Heinz Zerlett is full of simple charms that make this
a breeze to watch and it feels like a perfect Saturday matinee
feature.


style="margin-bottom: 0in; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; widows: 2; text-decoration: none;"
align="left">
face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">Fans
of Henri-Georges Clouzot know that he's a master filmmaker with a
understanding of the craft of the medium which is far more refined
that most filmmakers. As Clouzot's a brilliant filmmaker, it makes
sense that some fans would want to check out his origins as an artist
with the early works that showcase his foot-prints before the
revelation of his genius. However, this collection is one that
doesn't necessarily deliver any revelations as early works which will
stun and be considered alongside his later masterpieces. This set
feels more scholarly and educational for those interested in the
development of a filmmaker than essential.


size="3">The Blu-ray:


size="3">Video:


style="margin-bottom: 0in; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; widows: 2; text-decoration: none;"
align="left">
face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">The
release includes all seven films with 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded
high-definition presentations. Each film is presented in the original
1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. The B&W cinematography is also
preserved. While these are high-definition presentations, it's
obvious that little care went into restoring these features. Each
film appears to be sourced from prints which showcase a lot of wear
and tear to the prints. There's often dirt (or debris), sometimes
cigarette burns on the corners, and unrefined film grain which
demonstrates the film's age significantly.


style="margin-bottom: 0in; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; widows: 2; text-decoration: none;"
align="left">
face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">Unlike
some classic film preservation efforts that make such classics appear
almost new (an amazing thing to experience with 1930's classics from
time to time) this release feels more like a bare minimum effort to
present these films in HD. There's still a noticeable uptick in
clarity and resolution but most of these films suffer from
significant presentation drawbacks. None of the films included are
considered as great classics so it's clear less care went into
preservation. Dream Castle is the worst transfer of
the bunch
with a blown-out looking image accompanying the significant print
damage.


face="Times New Roman, serif">Audio:


style="margin-bottom: 0in; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; widows: 2; text-decoration: none;"
align="left">
face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">The
audio fares even worse on this release. The films sound terrible with
scratchy hiss and crackling sound throughout each feature. The
dynamic range and depth is quite poor (frankly, it's to be expected
given the age of the material) but the poor presentation quality
extends beyond that. Many classics released on Blu-ray have had
outstanding audio remasters but this release doesn't go that extra
mile. There is not one film in the set with a truly impressive
presentation (without horrible hiss or muffled sounding dialogue).


style="margin-bottom: 0in; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 100%; widows: 2; text-decoration: none;"
align="left">
face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">Each
film is presented with 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio stereo tracks. English
subtitles are provided for each feature film.




size="3">Extras:


style="margin-bottom: 0in; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; widows: 2; text-decoration: none;"
align="left">
face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">There
are no extras on the discs themselves. The release does include a
booklet featuring an essay written by film critic Peter Tonguette.
The booklet also features cast and crew credits for the films.


size="3">Final
Thoughts:


style="margin-bottom: 0in; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; widows: 2; text-decoration: none;"
align="left">
face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">Henri-Georges
Clouzot (The Wages of Fear) is a brilliant filmmaker
renowned
all around the world. It's no surprise that a release would be
created with some of his earliest efforts (on which he worked as a
assistant director or screenwriter). From a scholarly perspective
this set has much to delve into. It's fascinating to see the
progression of an artist from someone learning the craft to becoming
a true auteur. This set doesn't contain any exceptional films but it
does include some entertaining ones. Students of film with a desire
to take on an educational experience with this set will find it worth
checking out (even if the films included don't suggest that genius to
come from Clouzot). Unfortunately, given the poor PQ/AQ and lack of
meaningful extras, it's worth a one-time-watch only. 


style="margin-bottom: 0in; font-style: normal; line-height: 100%; widows: 2; text-decoration: none;"
align="left">
face="Times New Roman, serif"> style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0%; -moz-background-clip: initial; -moz-background-origin: initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: initial;">Rent
It.



Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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