• Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno



    Released by: Arrow Academy
    Released on: February 6th, 2018.
    Director: Serge Bromberg, Ruxandra Medrea
    Cast: Romy Schneider, Serge Reggiani, Costa-Gavras
    Year: 2009
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    The Movies:

    In 1964, famed French filmmaker Henri-Georges Clouzot (He of Les Diaboliques and Wages Of Fear to name only two), began work on a film to be entitled L’Enfer (or, in English, Inferno). The production did not go well. Cast members took ill, others had breakdowns and the director himself suffered a heart attack. This was all after the film had secured all the money that it needed and then some, thanks to a major studio opting to back it. In fact, Columbia Pictures was so impressed with the footage that they did see that they basically handed the director a blank check. But Clouzot abandoned the picture

    The story of the film itself is set in at a quaint resort in the Auvergne region of France near a picturesque lake and star lovely Romy Schneider as Odette, the beautiful wife of Marcel, a hotel manager (Serge Reggiani) with some serious jealousy issues. The picture was to explore his crumbling mental state brought about by his having convinced himself that Odette is cheating on him. As his condition worsens, the film becomes increasingly experimental and avant-garde in design, with the more ‘realistic’ footage representing the real world having been shot in black and white and the man’s bizarre fantasy sequences in blazing color.

    Co-director’s Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea have done an interesting job bringing Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno to life. The film is part reconstruction (featuring newly shot footage of Berenice Bejo and Jacques Gamblin replacing Schneider and Reggiani) and part documentary, using archival location and interview footage as well as dramatic reenactments of scenes that were written but not filmed combined with the existing footage the Clouzot did bring in to create something wholly unique. Clouzot’s own notes were used wherever possible to get the project as close to his original vision as is likely possible.

    By all accounts, the set was tense. Clouzot didn’t sleep, he would instead shoot and reshoot at all hours of the day without giving his cast much in the way of reasoning for this or even sometimes affording them the option of context. He seems to have been almost, if not entirely, obsessed with Schneider (the footage that he shot of her for this project would tend to back that up – if nothing else, the camera loved her!), proving that art does sometimes imitate life. Interviews with co-assistant directors Bernard Stora and Costa-Gavras, art director Jacques Douy, SFX coordinator Eric Duvivier, cameraman William Lubtchansky, Ines Clouzot and quite a few others help to paint a picture of a very troubled production. That footage though… what Clouzot did actually shoot, it’s damned impressive. Much of it is seriously psychedelic, far more so than any of his other projects, and it feels as much like a work of deranged mid-sixties pop art as it does the psychological thrillers that the director made a name for himself with.

    Interestingly enough, in 1994 Claude Chabrol would use Henri-Georges Clouzot's screenplay as the basis for his own film, also entitled L’Enfer. It basically follows the same story, though this time around the characters are named Paul Prieur (played by François Cluzet ) and Nelly (played by Emmanuelle Béart).

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Arrow brings Inferno to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and it looks excellent. Understandably, some of the archival footage used in the feature looks a little worse for wear, but overall the image is strong. Detail is impressive, color reproduction really pops while the black and white sequences show nice contrast and good black levels. There are no noticeable issues with any compression artifacts nor is there any edge enhancement or noise reduction apparent on the image.

    A DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix and an LPCM 2.0 mix are both provided in the film’s native French language with optional subtitles provided in English only. The two tracks are actually quite similar, with the 5.1 mix getting a nudge in quality for its use of the surrounds for the odd ambient effect or musical cue. Aside from that, both tracks feature nicely balanced levels and clean, clear dialogue (which is important as much of the feature is simply people talking).

    Extras start off with a twenty-two-minute featurette entitled Lucy Mazdon On Henri-Georges Clouzot. Here the French film expert discusses what makes Clouzot’s films important and interesting. She also goes into quite a bit of detail about Inferno’s unusual production history and provides some welcome and appreciated context for much of what we see in the feature itself. Also well worth checking out is an hour-long featurette entitled They Saw Inferno which not only includes some interesting unseen material but also includes interview with various people involved in the production, allowing them to talk about their experiences and their thoughts on the movie that almost was. From there we get a ten-minute optional introduction to the feature from Serge Bromberg and then an eighteen-minute interview with him in which he speaks about and why he came to make this film, what was involved in putting all of the pieces of this puzzle together and his thoughts on Clouzot as well as other subjects.

    Rounding out the extras is a still gallery, the film’s original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection. The disc comes packaged with some nice reversible sleeve featuring original poster art on one side and a newly commissioned piece by Twins of Evil on the flipside, as well as a full color insert booklet that contains an essay on the film by Ginette Vincendeau as well as credits for the feature and for the disc itself.

    The Final Word:

    Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno is a bit of a heartbreaker simply because the footage that the director did shoot for this project shows that it really did have serious potential. The documentary that Serge Bromberg nd Ruxandra Medrea have built around this is very good indeed, as it not only shows off what exists of the film but also provides it with some important context. The end result is genuinely fascinating stuff, and the Blu-ray release from Arrow Academy presents in in beautiful shape with a nice selection of supplemental material.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!





























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    Jack J

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    Great review, Ian. (y)

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    Jack J 08-19-2018 01:46 AM
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