IHenri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno, documentary, not rated, CCA Cinematheque, 3.5 chiles Documentaries about the making of films are common now. You can find docs featuring the production history of King Kong, Gone With the Wind, the Godfather films, and the Star Wars series. Nearly every film that gets released on DVD includes a “making of” portion.
The novelty of Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea’s documentary Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno is that it’s about a film that never got made. By using existing footage of the aborted project and interviewing surviving cast and crew members, Bromberg and Medrea paint a fascinating historical portrait of a man — Clouzot — whose genius or madness led him to start a movie he couldn’t complete.
Clouzot’s name may not be as familiar to the average film fan as the names of some of the French New Wave directors are — Clouzot’s films were mostly released before the New Wave. Filmgoers with a sense of the history of cinema are bound to recollect his nail-biting thriller The Wages of Fear (1953) and his morbidly suspenseful Diabolique (1955). The protagonists of most of his films — including Brigitte Bardot’s character in The Truth (1960) — are so desperate to escape their personal dead-ends that they choose extreme methods, whether it’s the near-suicidal transportation of nitroglycerin over mountain roads ( Wages of Fear) or murder ( Diabolique and The Truth).