DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

 
INFERNO (L'ENFER D'HENRI-GEORGES CLOUZOT) (directors: Serge Bromberg/Ruxandra Medrea; screenwriters: Serge Bromberg/based on an original idea by Mr. Bromberg and rushes from "L'Enfer"/Henri-Georges Clouzot, José-André Lacour and Jean Ferry; cinematographers: Irina Lubtchansky/Jérôme Krumenacker; editor: Janice Jones; music: Bruno Alexiu; cast: Bérénice Bejo (Odette), Jacques Gamblin (Marcel)-(1964 cast): Romy Schneider (Odette), Serge Reggiani (Marcel), Dany Carrel (Marylou), Jean-Claude Bercq (Martineau), Maurice Garrel (Dr. Arnoux), Mario David (Julien); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Marianne Lère; Park Circus (PAL format; 2009-France-in French with English subtitles)

"Covers the found enigmatic footage of the late great French filmmaker Henri-Georges Clouzot's aborted attempt to make an experimental film in June of 1964."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The documentary covers the found enigmatic footage of the late great French filmmaker Henri-Georges Clouzot's aborted attempt to make an experimental film in June of 1964 using hallucinatory and erotic images to tell about a jealous spouse having demonic fits because he thinks his sexy wife is cheating on him. It's co- directed by film archivist Mr. Serge Bromberg and intellectual property lawyer Ms. Ruxandra Medrea from an idea Bromberg had when stuck in a Paris elevator with Clouzot's second wife Ines who told him during the two-hour emergency of this supposedly genius film that her hubby began on an unlimited budget but it was never finished because the American backers, Columbia Pictures, officially canceled after Clouzot's heart attack on the set (occurring while filming a lesbian scene between the bikini-clad hottie vixens Romy Schneider and Dany Carrel). Clouzot, who suffered from insomnia, was also having anxiety attacks at the time because of losing the lead actor Serge Reggiani and members of the film crew because of his shouting bouts and disrespectful treatment of them, falling behind schedule and unwisely leaving his three separate camera crews undirected for long periods so they bitched about having nothing to do.

Clouzot lived to make another film The Female Prisoner in 1968 and didn't die until 1977, though it was thought failure to finish this pic was what really finished him. The documentary contains rushes from Clouzot's three weeks shooting of the uncompleted would-be masterpiece (totaling 15 hours of rushes and screen tests). It runs as a parallel narrative with the reconstruction by Bromberg and Medrea, who use their imagination to attempt to take a stab at how Clouzot would have completed the film. In the reconstruction piece, Bérénice Bejo plays Romy's part and Jacques Gamblin plays Reggiani's part. There are also interviews with the film crew and some other observers on-set. Bromberg and Medrea's Inferno is stitched together as part documentary and part reconstruction, and turns out to be a tantalizing film that lets us see what happened behind the scenes.

Inferno was inspired by Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2 (1963) and acts as an answer to French New Wave filmmakers who ignored Clouzot as a has-been traditional filmmaker. Clouzot seeking the limelight again aimed to show these upstarts that he could make an innovative visual film as good as any of his rivals by using such modern art techniques as Op Art, superimpositions and all kinds of camera trickery. Bromberg acts as the unseen narrator, telling us the film's theme was to show through images that obsessive jealousy was a pathological mental disease.

Clouzot had a rep in French cinema as a terrific craftsman, a perfectionist, someone motivated to get the details exactly right, an amazingly talented director, and someone actors found it difficult to work with because he can be overbearing. By 1964 he made acclaimed films like “The Raven” (1943), “Quai des Orfèvres” (1947), “Manon” (1949), “The Wages of Fear” (1953), “Diabolique” (1955), The Mystery of Picasso(1956) and The Truth” (1960). But he had not worked for four years, ever since his nervous breakdown.

The Inferno storyboard had film tough guy Serge Reggiani as the 42-year-old manager of a provincial hotel on a scenic lake, who becomes crazed when he suspects his sexy 26-year-old wife played by Franco-Austrian superstar Romy Schneider of fooling around with the macho Jean-Claude Bercq.

After viewing the rushes and catching Romy in blue lips in a dream sequence and seeing Claude Chabrol's 1993 L'enfer, which adapted a rediscovered script from the 1964 Clouzot film Inferno, it was chilling to see the respected anguished director come apart mentally and self-destruct. But no matter how the doomed project may have turned out, bomb or masterpiece, if completed, it certainly would not have looked like any other film at the time and would have been a trip to see.

REVIEWED ON 6/8/2012       GRADE: A-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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