Monday, April 23, 2018

Le Corbeau

Henry-Georges Clouzot’s Le Corbeau (1943), The Raven, currently in revival at Film Forum, is a great title for a film noir. The Raven turns out to be the signature on poison pen letters. Spoiler Alert, without totally giving away the ending, let’s just say that one way of figuring out the perpetrator is to analyze the weapon. In some crime procedurals the forensics involves guns. Here it’s writing that’s responsible for at least one death. So graphology holds the key. Besides the poetic title and the inventiveness of unleashing a slanderer on the populace of a small French village, the film is pretty much a dud laboriously highlighting one suspect after another, until it finally comes to the end of the list. There are several nice shots including some prescient shadows and one in which the interior of a room is framed by the view through a keyhole. There's also an interesting piece of backstory involving Pierre Fresney, the great French actor who plays Dr. Germain. Germain is both the subject of the malignity and himself a person of interest, as cops like to say. He’s been accused of being an abortionist and there turns out to be some truth to it since in a former life he’d lost everything at the hands of another doctor who was overly zealous in his attempt to save both mother and child. “You just want to be examined,” Germain tells the vampish Denise (Ginette Leclerc). “For this kind of examination you don’t need a doctor.” The irony is that this is one patient the doctor actually will end up needing. One note the cancer sufferer Francois, who kills himself, is played by Roger Blin, the French director who premiered Waiting for Godot ten years later in l953.

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