De­vour­ing ‘In­ferno’

Pasatiempo - - Moving Images - Robert Nott The New Mex­i­can

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).

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