Wednesday 25 April 2018

Quai des Orfevres - film review

The famous French film director Henri-Georges Clouzot was a fan of the Belgian crime writer Stanislas-Andre Steeman, and one of his most highly regarded movies, Quai des Orfevres, is among his adaptations of Steeman's fiction. So the story goes, Clouzot started writing the script without having access to the novel, Legitime Defense, which had been published during the war and was out of print at the time. And this reflects the fact that Clouzot, like his English counterpart Hitchcock, was not primarily concerned with whodunit.

The story features Jenny, played by Clouzot's long-time companion Suzy Delair (still alive, I gather, at the splendid age of 100), who is a talented and sexy singer and a performer ambitious to get on in the world. She's married to Martineau (Bernard Blier), a quiet pianist who is driven to jealousy by her flirtatious ways. She cares for him, but is determined not to allow him to dominate her or wreck her prospects of fame. 

A wealthy old lecher called Brignon takes a fancy to Jenny, in a scenario which, unfortunately, remains topical to this day. Martineau begs Jenny not to agree to see Brignon again, but she reckons she can take care of herself. He constructs an alibi at a theatre while following her to the place where he reckons she is due to meet Brignon, only to find that Brignon is dead. It seems clear that Jenny has killed him, and Martineau can't resist the temptation to interfere with the crime scene. Meanwhile, Jenny's friend Dora, a photographer who used to take nude pictures of Brignon's conquests, tries to help her out.

Louis Jouvet plays the detective who is soon on the trail. His performance is highly enjoyable, and overall this is a film which has earned the critics' admiration over the years. It has a depth, as well as a number of very pleasing touches, and it's probably one of those films that merits at least a second viewing to appreciate everything. I didn't find it quite as impressive as Le Corbeau
a film Clouzot made a few years earlier, or Les Diaboliques, which most people regard as his masterpiece, but it's definitely worth seeking out.   


Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your blog. Through it you have introduced me to many thoroughly enjoyable books, and films, and a glimpse of your busy and exciting life. Please keep posting!
Many thanks,

Martin Edwards said...

Much appreciated, Cathy - plenty more posts to come!