Sunday, 19 December 2010

Quai des Orfevres

Year: 1947
Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Screenplay: Henri-Georges Clouzot and Jean Ferry, based on the novel Self-Defense by Stanislas-Andre Steeman
Starring: Louis Jouvet, Suzy Delair, Bernard Blier, Simone Renant
Running Time: 106 minutes
Genre: Crime, thriller, police procedural, film noir

Summary: Paris, December 1946: Jenny Lamour (Delair) is a flirtatious nightclub singer and is married to piano player Maurice Martineau (Blier), who is very jealous of her. Believing that she is having an affair with Brignon (Charles Dullin), a lecherous old producer who Jenny wants to help advance her career, Maurice threatens to kill him. Later, Maurice discovers that Jenny has arranged a secret rendezvous with Brignon and so he takes his gun and goes to confront them. However, when he arrives Jenny is not there and Brignon is dead. Cynical Inspector Antoine (Jouvet) is put in charge of the police investigation into Brignon's death and Maurice is his prime suspect.

Opinions: This film marked Heri-Georges Clouzot's return to film after four years absence, after he was banned from film-making as a result of his controversial 1943 film Le corbeau (which was accused of being anti-French propaganda) and his involvment with German-owned Continental Films. Clouzot had read the Belgian murder-mystery novel Self-Defense by Stanislas-Andre Steeman during the Occupation, but had forgotten most of it when the time came to write the script and found that the novel was out of print, so he wrote to Steeman to obtain a copy of the book, and proceeded to write the script based on co-writer Jean Ferry's memory of the story. By the time the book arrived, the script had been written and was very different to the book. On it's release in France, the film was a huge hit with both audiences and critics. It is a well-paced and involving thriller, with plenty of surprises. For the first half hour or so it plays as a kind of backstage comedy-drama and darkens several shades once the mystery elements take hold. The film really comes into it's own when the hapless Maurice finds himself drawn into a Kafkaesque nightmare as he becomes the prime suspect. The acting is great, especially from Louis Jouvet as the dryly-humourous Inspector with a grim view of human nature. It's also stylishly photographed in crisp black and white and depicts a world teeming with life and incident.
The title refers to the address of the police headquarters in Paris.
If you get the chance it is definitely worth checking out for fans crime stories and thrillers.

Simone Renant is under investigation from Louis Jouvet in Quai des Orfevres

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