Thursday, July 21, 2011

DOTM: Henri-Georges Clouzot and Krzysztof Kieslowski

At the beginning of the month I allocated brilliant French director Henri-Georges Clouzot and Polish master Krzysztof Kieslowski as the directors to focus my independent viewing on. It has taken a little while, but I am finally starting to work through their resumes.

For Clouzot, if any director can compete with Alfred Hitchcock as the master of suspense, it is this man. Starting with Les Diaboliques, the story of two women who conspire to murder their husband and lover and then experience some strange phenomenon following, I was suitably impressed. But it was The Wages of Fear that really secured his elite status. The mission of four European deadbeats to drive two trucks of nitroglycerine across hazardous terrain to the site of an oil fire is some of the most intense cinema I have ever witnessed. The rest of his relatively brief filmography are hard to access, though The Truth, starring Brigitte Bardot, interests me. But both The Wages of Fear and Les Diaboliques should be considered amongst the classics of the suspense genre. If I were to choose 100 films that I find to be truly great, The Wages of Fear would comfortably make the list.

For Kieslowski, I have a little bit of a head start, having seen the Trois Couleurs Trilogy before. My favourite of the three was Rouge, which I own and have watched a number of times again. But it has been years since I saw Bleu and Blanc, so I intend to re-watch them too. This evening I watched The Double Life of Veronique, which was a beautiful story. With a compelling performance from Irene Jacob (with whom I have developed an immense crush for following both Veronique and Rouge), stunning cinematography and Zbigniew Preisner's enchanting score, this is immediately a personal favourite. In addition to Trois Couleurs, I hope to fit in The Decalogue, Kieslowski's ten episode television drama series.

What are your thoughts on these master directors? What films of theirs have you seen? Do you have any further recommendations?


  1. I haven't seen anything of either director. But a few of these films are on my 365 films list ... and are Netflix Instant.

    Good stuff my man.

  2. I really like both of these directors a lot. Clouzot is a master. I watched The Wages of Fear last year, and went into it knowing really only that Clouzot had also done Les Diaboliques. Wages turned out to be one of the best new-to-me films I saw last year. More people should watch his work.

    With Kieslowski, I can't say enough. The Decalogue is truly incredible. Each of the ten films is at least very good, and several of them are as good a short film as you will ever see. I recommend watching them over a period of time--at least a week--and really let them work on you.

    For the record, Bleu is my favorite of the three colors.

  3. Clouzot is one of my absolute favourite directors, but I've yet to explore Kieslowski's work, even though I have The Decalogue and the Three Colors Trilogy on my PC.

    As for recommendations, I'd highly recommend, Le Corbeau, Le Quai Des Orfevres and L'Assassin Habite Au 21, all solid mystery films by Clouzot.
    But for something really remarkable, you should check out La Verite, a really amazing film with a stunning Brigitte Bardot.

  4. Great post.

    I absolutely love The Double Life of Veronique. That is definitely my favorite Kieslowski film, followed by Blue and Red, or Red and Blue depending on which of them I saw last.

    Also like Steve said, Decalogue is an amazing body of work, and its probably best if you don't watch them all in quick succession, so you get a chance to take it all in.

  5. I haven't seen anything by Clouzot so I can't say anything. With Kieslowski, I own the Trois Couleurs box set as well as the 2-disc Criterion set of The Double Life of Veronique. My local library has The Decalogue which I hope to watch sometime later this year. I'm pretty much a fan of Kieslowski's work of what I've seen so far.

  6. Not a big fan of Clouzot. Diabloque did nothing for me and while Wages of Fear was incredibly tense, the opening dragged out long past its welcome.

    Kieslowski, on the other hand, I love. I would recommend checking out A Short Film About Killing and A Short Film About Love which are longer versions of Decalogue 5 and 6 respectively. Also, Camera Buff is a must. One of his earliest features and one of his best. I also think No End and Blind Chance are worth checking out if you still want more Kieslowski after that.

  7. Huge thanks for the comments everyone.

    Sam, The Trois Couleurs Trilogy is essential. I can't wait to re-watch them again.

    Steve, like you, The Wages of Fear is one of the best films I have seen this year. The Decalogue is a series I might watch after I have seen a few more of Kieslowski's films. In addition, I will have to find a place that rents it.

    Jack, thanks for the recommendations. These films are so hard to find, though. The only one I thought I might be able to get my hands on was La Verite, the Brigitte Bardot one. I hope I do!

    BT, I loved The Double Life of Veronique too. I love that both Veronique and Rouge share this beautiful theme of unexpected destiny, and with lives mysteriously linked to one another. Really compelling.

    Steven, I'm going to go and purchase Bleu, Blanc and Veronique I think. I also am yet to find a place within easy access that sells Criterion editions. I would love to purchase Les Diaboliques and The Wages of Fear on Criterion too.

    James, I understand what you mean about the lengthy opening of The Wages of Fear. I still felt like it was important in establishing the desperation of these men, and tell us a few things about their characters.
    Thanks for the recommendations. So, I should watch The Decalogue before A Short Film About Killing/Love? Perhaps I'll watch Camera Buff and The Decalogue first. The other two you mention I haven't heard of, but I'll keep an eye out for them too.

  8. Killing/Love are longer versions of Decalogue 5/6 so I watched them instead of Decalogue 5/6. I hear most like what Killing and Love add, so I'd recommend watching those once you get to those Decalogue episodes.