As witnessed by his most popular films Diabolique and The Wages of Fear, director Henri Georges-Clouzot was blessed with a heightened and sharp visual sense along with a existential yet candid take on the human condition. A 4K restoration of his 1943 feature Le Corbeau (aka The Raven) debuts today at the Laemmle Royal courtesy of Rialto Pictures, and it’s a film that’s worth checking out on the big screen.
Set in a picaresque and intimate French town, Le Corbeau introduces us to Dr. Remy Germain (Pierre Fresnay), a gruff and anti-social denizen who, though serious about his job, is a bit of a misanthrope. Though he has feelings for a social worker named Laura (Micheline Francey), she’s married to Dr. Vozet (Pierre Larquey), an older man whose witty and at times perverse sense of humor provides a bit of levity to the proceedings. Complicating Remy’s life, is Denise (Ginette Leclerc), an amorous woman who pretends to be sick just to get Dr. Remy’s attention.
Though this potential love triangle is enough meat for a narrative, Henri Georges- Clouzot has other things on his mind, as an anonymous town member sends out poison-pen letters implicating many citizens, including Dr. Remy, for various transgressions. A filmmaker whose sense of time and pacing (not to mention visual compositions) rival Alfred Hitchcock, Clouzot steadily ramps up the pace and tension as viewers continue to guess the identity of “the raven.”
Shot over 75 years ago, Le Corbeau looks absolutely pristine and eye-catching with the restoration, and for cinephiles and filmmakers who love stories with intriguing visual set-ups, this film definitely meets that standard. Whether it’s crafting how the letters are revealed to the public (one scene during a funeral procession is a particular standout) or an individual’s frantic fleeing from a bloodthirsty mob, Clouzot is a master of keeping viewers transfixed with his riveting storyline.
Running at a trim 93 minutes, Le Courbeau is a fascinating watch, and since Laemmle Royal is a great place to watch a movie (it’s a biased favorite since my UCLA days), this combo is pretty much hard to beat.