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HENRI-GEORGES CLOUZOT

France

Born: Niort, France, 20 November 1907.
Died: Paris, France, 12 January 1977.


Henri-Georges Clouzot (JPG, 15 KB)

French director and scriptwriter, one of the most controversial film-makers of the postwar period. Clouzot's early activities were decoted to writing. After an early short (La Terreur des Batignolles, 1931), he began adapting thrillers in the 1940s, a genre he pursued throughout his career. The first was his debut feature L'Assassin habite...au 21 (1942). Le Corbeau (1943, produced by the German-owned Continentale) turned him into both a celebrity and an object of scandal. Its vicious portrait of a strife-ridden small town was deemed "anti-French" and Clouzot was suspended from the film industry in 1944. Ironically, historians now read the film as anti-German. Clouzot resumed film-making in 1947, shooting a small but significant and highly successful body of films epitomizing (with such directors as Yves Allégret) the French noir tradition. Most, like Quai des Orfèvres (1947) and Les Diaboliques (1955), combine tight, suspenseful crime narratives with critical depictions of bourgeois milieux. Le Salaire de la peur / The Wages of Fear (1953), the ultra-tense story of two men delivery a lorry-load of nitro-glycerine, was a triumph at home and abroad. Clouzot directed one of Brigitte Bardot's best films, La Vérité (1960). His films also include Manon (1949) and Les Espions (1957), and a documentary on Picasso, Le Mystère Picasso (1955). Ironically for a film-maker who wrote all his scripts and insisted that a director "be his own auteur," Clouzot suffered at the hands of New Wave critics, who saw him as a mere "metteur-en-scène" and disliked the black misanthropy of his vision. A reassessment of his work is long overdue.

— Ginette Vincendeau, Encylopedia of European Cinema



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