Monday, 4 April 2016

Le Corbeau - film review

Le Corbeau is a film that, perhaps to my shame, I'd never heard of until Xavier Lechard,a blogger with great knowledge of and insight into Golden Age fiction recommended it on Facebook. Every now and then, I ask myself whether it's worth spending time on Facebook and Twitter, but the answer is that, although some argue that there is plenty of dross on social media, you also come across some unexpected gems. Xavier's recommendation was spot on. This is a fantastic film.

The film is, at least on the surface, a classic Golden Age whodunit, with an iconic setting -an idyllic-seeming village (in France, not rural England) which is rent asunder by a wave of poison pen letters. Interestingly, Louis Chavance was influenced in writing his original script by a real life outbreak of poison pen letters in Tulle. He wrote it in 1933, but the film was not made -by the great Clouzot, as it turned out - until ten years later.

By then, of course, France was occupied territory. There is no hint of this in the film - until you start to think about the sub-text. A very good extra on the DVD is a discussion of the film, during which the point is made that the plot parallels the wave of anonymous letters in occupied France denouncing Jews and Resistance fighters. The film was made by a German-run company, and after the war, Clouzot got into trouble for this, as did two of the leading actors. The film's cleverness and complexity mean that it's open to a number of interpretations, but for me,any suggestion that Le Corbeau was pro-Nazi propaganda is absurd.

I don't want to say too much about the plot. It's very well constructed, but what I most admired about this film was the way that classic Golden Age plot material was handled with such subtle ambiguity that one can read a great deal into the film. Some say that it's a film noir that anticipates later Hollywood movies, and I think there is some truth in this, despite the fact that the setting is a village bathed in sunlight. Darkness is never far away in Le Corbeau. I very much second Xavier's recommendation of this classic movie.


Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

A really great film Martin, I quite agree. I have the US release from Criterion - when one do you have?

Martin Edwards said...

Cheers, Sergio. Mine is by Studio Canal.

Nan said...

I just put it in my Netflix DVD queue. Thanks for the recommendation!

Christine said...

I recommend it too. Also the thrillers by Melville.