Sunday, November 20, 2016
Henri-Georges Clouzot | Les Diaboliques
no body there
by Douglas Messerli
Henri-Georges Clouzot and Jérôme Géronimi (screenplay), Henri-Georges Clouzot (director) Les Diaboliques / 1955
One of the reasons that Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1955 film Les Diaboliques remains so compelling today is that it lies to its audience, masquerading as a simple murder film while actually being a kind of toxic horror film / mystery.
Clouzot manages, accordingly, to convince his audience that a murder is justified, making us cohorts, as it were, who continue—despite a few possible slip-ups—to hope that the women get away with their dirty deed; and, in fact, we are led, like the naïve Christina, to believe they have carried it our successfully.
Gradually, however, the movie shifts to a kind of ghost-story as we wait for the body which they’ve thrown into the dirty swimming pool, to rise and be discovered. When some boys accidentally kick their soccer ball into the poll, threatening to send some into its waters to retrieve it, Nicole finally orders its draining. No body is discovered, and soon after, a young boy declares that the Principal—missing for several days—has confiscated his sling shot. A group school photo, showing us a shadowy figure above peering through the window, finally convinces us that something is horribly awry.
The sudden appearance of a private detective shifts the film again, at first convincing us that he is on to the actions of the two women, but finally forcing us to question our basic assumptions, just in time for Michel to appear in the flesh, resulting in Christina’s heart attack and death.
That Clouzot’s Brazilian born wife, Véra, died of a heart attack only five years later, much like her character in this film, brought the film new attention, while sending its director into a deep depression.
Los Angeles, November 20, 2016