Saturday, 19 March 2011

Les Diaboliques

Year: 1955
Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Screenplay: Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, based on the novel Celle qui n'etait plus by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac
Starring: Simone Signoret, Vera Clouzot, Paul Meurisse, Charles Vanel
Running Time: 107 minutes
Genre: Crime, thriller, horror,

Summary: At a second-rate boy's boarding school, the brutal and cruel headmaster Michel DeLasalle (Meurisse) is married to the frail Christina (Clouzot), a teacher at the school who has a weak heart, but makes no secret of his affair with the pragamtic and strong-minded Nicole Horner (Signoret), who is also a teacher at the school. Sick of DeLasalle's ill-treatment of them both, Christina and Nicole plot to murder him. The murder plot is carried out and the body disposed of in the schools disused scum and dirt covered swimming pool. However, the body goes missing and a succession of bizarre and disturbing events begin to plague Christina and Nicole. Add to that they are being questioned by a retired police detective turned private investigator, Alfred Fichet (Varnel), who appears to know a lot more than he is letting on.

Opinions: This film is frequently described as "Hitchcockian", and certainly it bears many of the hallmarks of the work of Alfred Hitchcock, such as the blending of humour and horror. In fact, some believe that Hitchcock missed out on the rights to the Boileau and Narcejac novel by only a few hours, with Clouzot getting to the authors first. Hitchcock would later adapt Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac's 1954 novel D'Entre des Mortes as the classic 1958 film Vertigo.
The movie has a complex storyline and a startling conclusion. It features great performances from the cast and conjures up a powerfully misanthropic atmosphere of decay and cruelty, with repeated shots of murky water and striking gothic imagery. However the darkness is lightened by plenty of humour. The end credits of the film feature an "anti-spoiler" warning asking the audience not to be "diabolical" and reveal the movie's twists to their friends.
It is a powerful, entertaining and suspenseful piece of work that has influenced many subsequent films, including Hitchock's 1962 film Psycho. In fact Robert Bloch, the author of the original novel Psycho, listed Les Diaboliques as his favourite horror film of all time.
However the film is more mystery and suspense than horror and will certainly appeal to anyone who enjoys a good mystery and thriller.
The film was remade in 1996 as Diaboliques starring Sharon Stone and Isabelle Adjani.

Vera Clouzot and Simone Signoret are in on a plot in Les Diaboliques

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