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More, More, More: Henri-Georges Clouzot's 'Inferno'

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Thursday, May 12, 2011
A documentary on a potential landmark movie, differed.
cover art

Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno

Director: Serge Bromberg
Cast: Romy Schneider, Serge Reggiani

(USDVD release date: )

In 1964, Henri-Georges Clouzot (Diabolique, The Wages of Fear) began shooting a film with a simple concept. A husband (Serge Reggiani) is so pathologically jealous of his wife (Romy Schneider) that the black-and-white footage of their lives becomes expressively distorted with his color fantasies. Clouzot was going to use all kinds of wiggy avant-garde techniques (including the soundtrack), for which a lot of test footage was shot. When he received backing for an unlimited budget from Columbia Pictures, any chance of shooting the film quickly on a tight schedule seems to have gone out the window as Clouzot slowed down shooting and prolonged the experiments. Reggiani left the project and Clouzot had a heart attack, shutting down production after three weeks.

Later Claude Chabrol shot his own version of the script, L’Enfer (1994), a straightforward bore. On the evidence of the footage revealed in Serge Bromberg’s documentary, if Clouzot’s film had used half the wild techniques and tour-de-force photography on display, the film would have been a psychedelic benchmark on a level with 2001: A Space Odyssey. The shots of Schneider alone, whether “plain” or fantastically fetishized, are uncanny goddess material. Bromberg’s fascinating film relies on Clouzot’s footage and interviews with a several participants, plus a few enacted dialogues from the script.
Flicker Alley releases the DVD in a Blu-ray combo pack. The only bonus on the DVD is the director’s introduction, in which he clears up the point that he didn’t just randomly meet widow Inès Clouzot in an elevator (as the film implies) but had been pestering her for access to the footage and she’d already turned him down. The Blu-ray throws in an image gallery and a one-hour “making-of” (though the feature is already a making-of) with more lost footage out of the 18 hours of reels. We want more, more.


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