Henri-Georges Clouzot's Le Corbeau is a puzzle. Shot during the Nazi occupation of France in 1943, the film is a damnation of Gestapo inquisition tactics and, in a broader sense, of fascism in any form. But Clouzot's contemporaries saw it a different way. Ever the self-obsessed, French cineastes felt Clouzot was mocking provencial French society, with its backbiting and stringent (yet polite) class warfare. Attacked (or banned) by just about every political and religious group in the country, Le Corbeau ruined his reputation as a director for years. Later would it be interpreted correctly -- but the backlash against it pretty much proves that either way you want to look at the film, Clouzot was right.

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.

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