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An adaptation of Abbe Prevost's classic French novel 'Manon Lescaut', updated to post-World War II France, in which a former French Resistance activist rescues Manon from villagers who want... See full summary »
Overlong OR too linear, the mesmerising images by Clouzot can't do it all
I'm a great admirer of Serge Bromberg. He is a man who will share and communicate his love for movies. But he is first and foremost a film collector, so he has too much respect for shelved and forgotten material, which I reckon is good to explain you how some rare silent newsreel is interesting, or to teach younger generations the importance of Meliès in pushing cinema beyond the mundane recording of live action.
Any movie buff will admire the work of Clouzot, so the pitfall was too much respect for a doomed project. There is very little insight about the unfinished movie. The answer comes late in the documentary, by that time we would have guessed by ourselves with all the clues, with all the experimentation and all the images and talk isolating Clouzot from the production reality. Sure Clouzot badly needed some kind of associate, be it a producer and/or a writer. In short, as a creative mind with lots of responsibilities he needed a sparing partner for his ideas. Someone who would stay focused and help sober Clouzot after an experimental binge. But everybody respected Clouzot as a genius, or feared him, and they didn't feel they could understand him, let alone speak up to him.
Now this is the main point with L'Enfer, and should have been the heart of the documentary. Instead we have a flat chronological montage of a prologue + prep + shoot. Such an approach would be OK for a 25min. runtime, but it's way overblown to 90min. Sure there were plenty rushes, fascinating images. The real homage would have been to tell a story with these images, inventing a context, not scholarly laying out the facts. At least the book Romy dans l'Enfer is much better since it chooses one approach, the one that stands out in all the presumably exhausting experimental work of Clouzot.
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