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A vicious series of poison-pen letters spreads rumours, suspicion and fear among the inhabitants of a small French town, and one after another, they turn on each other as their hidden secrets are unveiled - but the one secret that no-one can uncover is the identity of the letters' author...Written by
Michael Brooke <email@example.com>
It's a legend!and a black one!The most famous scandal of French cinema during the occupation,le corbeau (the raven) has not lost its feathers even today. The facts:it was produced by the German firm "continental" where Clouzot used to work as a scripter "en chef".But people went as far as saying that the movie was shown in German movie theaters under the disagreeable title "a small town like so many other ones in France" .Balderdash!The movie was never released in Germany at the time. As Roger Boussinot wrote in "l'encyclopédie du cinéma"(1980),"the bourgeoisie ,be it French or German was all the same everywhere,and Hitler,whose fortunes were on the wane ,had to treat his own (bourgeoisie) gently.Actually,the film ran into difficulties after the Liberation.It was the ideal scapegoat,and along with so many others ,like Sacha Guitry,Arletty(the female star of "les enfants du paradis"),Ginette Leclerc (the female star of "le corbeau")and other "collaborators" (sic),Clouzot was blacklisted.
Why so much acrimony against "le corbeau"?Because it depicted life in French provinces in a way that was far from being idyllic.Anonymous letters are sent by the "raven",and drags the town through the mud.At first sight ,it seems like a simple whodunit:Clouzot 's first effort (l'assassin habite au 21) was a thriller.But there's more to the picture than meets the eye:what was latent in the first movie,we see it in its true colors:Clouzot's contempt for the whole human race,which will increase over the years.No character in "le corbeau " to identify with:the prototype of the film noir.Where is good?Where is bad?The most famous scene remains that of the light sway :the world is not black and white,what you thought black might be white and vice versa .
"Le Corbeau' was released at the wrong time.It was too different from the "Occupation" movies which dealt with "escape" "dream" as works as Carné's "les visiteurs du soir" or Jean Delannoy/Jean Cocteau's "l'éternel retour" testify.It was 1947 before HG Clouzot was allowed to direct again.Four years has passed,and he came back to Belgian writer Steeman (whose "le dernier des six" and "l'assassin habite au 21" he had already adapted),but his venom and his misanthropy hadn't dried up,and more masterpieces were to follow.
Otto Preminger directed a remake "the 13th letter" in 1951 which I haven't seen.On the other hand ,there was a French "modern "update by Yves Boisset (Radio Corbeau,1989)which is watchable but which can't be compared to Clouzot's thunderbolt back in 1943.
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