Monday, 7 March 2011

Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno

Year: 2009
Directors: Serge Bromberg and Ruxana Medrea
Screenplay: Serge Bromberg
Starring: Romy Schneider, Berenice Bejo, Serge Reggiani, Jacques Gamblin
Running Time: 102 minutes
Genre: Documentary, film-making

Summary: Director Serge Bromberg was once trapped in a stalled elevator for two hours with a woman. They got chatting and Bromberg discovered that he was speaking to Ines de Gonzalez, who was the second wife of legendary French film director Henri-Georges Clouzot. She revealed to him the existence of 185 film cans (15 hours worth of footage) from her late husband's uncompleted 1964 film L'Enfer (Inferno). Bromberg persuaded her to allow him to use the footage to make a documentary which partially tells the story of Inferno, about a man (Reggiani) whose obsessive jealousy of his wife Schnieder causes him to suffer bizarre hallucinations. The documentary also tells the story of the making of the film and the reasons why it was abandoned.

Opinions: The film consists of footage shot for Inferno, test footage for the film, talking-head interviews with some of the crew who worked on it, and two contemporary actors (Berenice Bejo in the Romy Schneider role and Jacques Gamblin in the Serge Reggiani part) performing scenes from the script on a blank stage. From what is shown in the film, it appears as if Inferno would have been a very experimental movie. Clouzot shot endless reels of test footage where he encouraged his crew to experiment as much as possible with visual and sound effects in the hope of creating something truly unique. In that he would probably have been successful, because some of the footage shown is really amazing and fascinatingly strange. Of course there is no way to tell what the film could have been. The documentary gives a detailed account of the production of the film and it's eventual cancellation and is a very interesting view into just ho difficult film production can be and how easy it is for things to just fall apart.
The film is entertaining and accessible. It's a must-see for fans of French cinema, of course, as well as aspiring film-makers but general movie fans will probably enjoy it as well, especially if you're interested in what goes on behind the scenes of movies.
Henri-Georges Clouzot's script was eventually made into the 1994 film L'Enfer, directed by Claude Chabrol.

The drinks are on Romy Schneider in Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno

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