Raoul Ploquin

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Le Corbeau Review


Very Good
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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Les Dames Du Bois De Boulogne Review


Extraordinary
Critics and audiences in 1945 were united about Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne: they hated it. For director Robert Bresson, the antipathetic reception must have seemed like the culmination of substantial frustration and toil, WWII having already forced production to drag on for years. Producer Raoul Ploquin was bankrupted, and Bresson, who had only one other feature on his résumé, had cause to worry about his career.

The problem, according to an essay by François Truffaut included in the lovingly restored Criterion edition of the film, was the film's dialogue, written by Jean Cocteau. Cocteau was one of cinema's true poets (the best of his own films - Blood of a Poet, Orpheus, Beauty and the Beast - are among the most magical ever made). But it seems likely that French audiences, having been living under the heel of the Nazi occupation, were not particularly receptive to such rarified, wildly sophisticated banter. "Why are you leaving?" one character asks another. "I hate the piano," her friend petulantly replies. Another woman greets a gentleman caller thusly: "I cannot receive you, come in." Receiving a gift, this same gentleman remarks that he loves gold; "It's warm, cold, light, dark, incorruptible." And very urbane.

Continue reading: Les Dames Du Bois De Boulogne Review

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