A psychiatrist, desperate for money to keep his faltering practice running, makes a deal with a spy to hide a mysterious person in his clinic in return for a million francs. As soon as the deal is struck his place is overrun by spies from both East and West, all in search of a renegade nuclear scientist. The psychiatrist's own sanity starts to break down as he submitted to unmitigated surveillance and deception.Written by
The head doctor of a failing sanatorium accepts a million francs from a mysterious government agent to harbour a new fake patient. This new inmate is said to be an inventor of a new devastating nuclear device, as a consequence, a swarm of international spies are drawn to the hospital.
Les Espions is a film directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot who was tagged as the French Hitchcock before that term was applied later to Claude Chabrol. He rose to prominence with films such as the suspense classic Les Diaboliques (1955). Les Espions is a much less well-known film, in fairness this is probably partially as a result of it being a less successful end product. It has a much more ambiguous tone to it, with it starting out for the most part as a black comedy, which by the end turns deadly serious. It's an unusual combination and one which I'm not sure entirely works, with the sillier story elements working against the more serious undertones. I actually thought the ending was very good and the darker aspects more successful but I felt they were lessened a little by the more light-hearted comic tone that made up much of the earlier part of the film, which was a sort of spies vs. spies scenario with the hapless doctor in the middle constantly wondering who can be trusted? I think this is one of those movies which would be improved on a re-watch, given that once you know what it isn't as much as what it is, I expect it will be much easier to get into its rhythm and get on board with its unusual tone. On first viewing I found this to be somewhat uneven, yet aspects of it definitely left me intrigued. Even if the whole doesn't fit together perfectly, this is still certainly a film with a bit of originality.
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