Didn’t like this one as much (it’s kind of the meat in a three-film sandwich of Clouzot films I picked up, Corbeau and Wages of Fear are the other two, obviously I’ll be doing the latter next), although at least this time Clouzot works a bit harder at giving us characters to sympathise with. It’s essentially a bit of a policier, albeit one in which the police don’t enter the scene until nearly halfway through the film; instead Clouzot gives us a fairly lengthy build-up to their appearance, being initially more interested in the relationship between Jenny and Maurice, music hall singer and composer respectively, one which is dominated quite heavily by the latter’s jealousy any time another man looks like showing an interest in her. No surprises for guessing this will eventually lead to trouble, as it does when Jenny attracts the interest of a fairly loathsome entrepreneur full of promises to make her a film star, and full of less admirable urges. Maurice goes to pay a visit one night with murder in mind, only to find someone’s beaten him to it… and when the police do finally start investigating, they seem oddly determined to pin the crime on him (indeed, the film suggest Clouzot’s view of the forces of law & order was a particularly cynical one; we see them as frankly happy to use force and coercion against witnesses as well as suspects to make sure they give the “right” answer, and on a certain moral level not much better than some of the actual crooks they deal with). Of course, we the audience know who really did it… don’t we? I don’t entirely share Ed Howard’s belief that the ending is “deus ex machina” as such, I don’t think it’s quite that out of nowhere, but I certainly don’t think it was adequately prepared for, and at the end of a film that was longer than it probably needed to be it didn’t strike me as the sort of payoff it could’ve been.
Quai des Orfèvres (1947)