If you ask anyone who is the master of suspense, you’ll likely get the same answer from most people: Alfred Hitchcock. Most people know that.
What most people don’t know, is that, for a few years in the 1950s, he was taken off that pedestal by a French director who is mostly forgotten today: Henri-Georges Clouzot, a man whose work we’ve already admired here, but who achieved international recognition with Les Diaboliques.
This is one of the best thrillers I’ve seen in a long time, particularly because it’s unpredictable until a few minutes from the end. It doesn’t torture you with the knowledge that bad things are coming in a precisely organized procession. After a while, you know the bad stuff is on its way, but you’d be hard-pressed to guess what form it takes.
And the end is greatly satisfying.
The only weak link here is the main actress, Clouzot’s wife Vera, who was not great, but the film is so strong it really didn’t matter all that much. The awkwardness in her acting actually fits into the personality of the character and you wonder if she was bad on purpose (apparently she wasn’t, but I only learned that when doing a bit of reading for this piece).
For those of you who read and enjoy my car stuff here, it’s fun to note that the characters crisscross France in an eminently unsuitable Citroen 2CV van.
I give this one a solid “recommended”. Hitchcock was only re-crowned with Psycho… and Clouzot has been mostly forgotten, at least by non-students of the seventh art outside of France.
Gustavo Bondoni is a novlist and short story writer whose own thriller is more of an action-driven exponent of the genre as opposed to an ambience-driven one. It’s called Timeless, and you can check it out here.