Le Corbeau Movie Review
Le Corbeau is a short and pointed film, never straying far from its central plot line. In a small village, mysterious letters are showing up just about everywhere. The anonymous letters allege the worst -- infidelities, alcoholism, abortions -- and no one is immune. Within days a witch hunt is underway, as the two figurehead leaders of the village, two doctors, launch an all-out campaign to uncover the "poison pen," whose alias is "Le Corbeau," aka "The Raven." Their quest culminates in an event obviously inspired by Nazi atrocities, as everyone in town is rounded up and forced to rewrite some of Le Corbeau's greatest hits all night long, the idea being that eventually, The Raven's true handwriting will be revealed, along with The Raven's identity.
Clouzot crafts scenes deftly -- as anyone familiar with his other works like Diabolique will know already -- in stark close-ups the focus our attention perfectly on a letter, an eyebrow, or a stream of tears. But Clouzot's intent to decry Nazism results in a thriller that isn't exactly stocked with surprises. Clouzot pulls a lot of stunts to turn our suspicions literally every major character, but they turn up a little flat. There's not a ton of logic to follow here, and by the final reveal the mystery becomes extremely forced. So-and-so's trying to get vengeance on so-and-so, but so-and-so knows this, and on and on a dozen levels deep. None of the characters are particularly likeable anyway, so why should we care which of them is The Raven?
Criterion's new DVD release of Le Corbeau includes an interview with director Bertrand Tavernier about Clouzot's work, and an excerpt from a 1975 documentary about French film during the German occupation.
Aka The Raven.