Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Le Corbeau - Criterion Collection|
Actors: Pierre Fresnay, Ginette Leclerc, Micheline Francey, Héléna Manson, Jeanne Fusier-Gir
Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Image Entertainment Release Date: 03/10/2009 Run time: 91 minutes
A Bitter, Brilliant Brew
R. W. Rasband | Heber City, UT | 04/12/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Some called the director Henri Georges Clouzot "the French Hitchcock." But in many ways Hitchcock was Santa Claus next to the cynical Clouzot. The Frenchman was a master of film noir, that bleakest and blackest of film genres. He made three undeniably great films: "Diabolique", "The Wages of Fear", and this one. For some reason it's been packaged here as "The Raven", but its better known title is "Le Corbeau", or "The Crow." Like Clouzot's other great movies, it's a suspenseful, terrifying journey into the heart of darkness that can exist in the human soul. In a small French village, someone is sending anonymous, hate-filled letters full of lies and half-truths about the villagers: she is a thief, he is an adulterer, that doctor performs secret abortions. The letters are signed "the Crow." The level of hate and paranoia in the small village rises to fever pitch as a witch-hunt develops to find The Crow. The final identity of the letter-writer is shocking, but logical and inevitable. You have to watch the film twice in order to pick up all the diabolical little clues Clouzot lets drop. The protagonist, Dr. Germain (the main target of the Crow's letter-writing campaign) loses his rigidity about human nature and begins to see that people are a mixture of good and evil and that "evil is necessary. It's like a disease from which you emerge stronger." The film is cleverly written and beautifully and ominously photographed in the best noir style. The film was made in German-occupied France in 1943 and was a harsh portrait of a small French town, so after the war it was misconstrued by many as anti-French propaganda, and Clouzot had trouble finding work for a few years. That could be the reason why this movie is not as widely appreciated as his others. But it's not a political film that deals with passing issues. It's a film-noir gem."
Raven vs. Robin
R. W. Rasband | 05/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A reticent physician with a mysterious past, practicing in the small French town of St. Robin, is targeted by poison-pen letters signed "Le Corbeau" (The Raven). The letters increase from a trickle to a deluge as virtually everyone in town is targeted; confidences are violated and neighbor suspects neighbor in an infectious atmosphere of growing paranoia and mistrust. Henri-Georges Clouzot (Diabolique, Wages of Fear) keeps the viewer on his toes throughout the entire 91 minutes; there isn't a weak spot in this entire film which, amazingly, managed to get itself made during the Nazi occupation of France (and which was condemned by both the Right and Left Wings, with the Church thrown in for good measure).I caught the beginning of this film some months back on Turner and was too tired to watch it in its entirety. I was very happy to learn that Criterion (yay!) was scheduled to release it and I wasn't disappointed; this film belongs in the library of every serious collector. In fact, I can't imagine anyone's not enjoying it. Since other reviewers have summarized the plot, I'll confine the rest of my review to the disk and its extras. The print--predictably--is gorgeous, presented in its original, full-screen aspect ratio. Contrary to another reviewer, I found the sound clear as a bell and not in the least bit harsh or tinny. I haven't, with the exception of the trailer, availed myself of the extras yet but this is a Criterion release--I'd be surprised if they were anything less than first-rate. A very informative booklet is included and makes for interesting reading. My quibbles are minor and few: I found the subtitles difficult to see from a rather short distance, and I wish they were offered in other languages (I have a number of friends who are recent emigrés from Russia and other countries who are eager to avail themselves of quality cinema). There was also a scene where the action paused for a fraction of a second--I'm not sure if this was the director's intention or the result of this being a dual-layer release. This is a fascinating film that can be enjoyed on a number of levels, i.e., one need not be aware of conditions in France at the time it was shot to be captivated by it. An excellent introduction to the work of Clouzot for the initiate and a welcome event for seasoned fans."
The first of Clouzot's dark masterpieces
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 11/15/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Le Corbeau aka The Raven is a surprisingly vivid piece of film-making, a wonderfully cinematic dissection of a town torn apart by the poison-pen letters of 'The Raven.' The initial balance of power that maintains the status quo (A knows B's indiscretion, B knows A's, so neither can destroy the other without disgracing himself) is soon destroyed as the whole town learns each other's dirty linen, with suspicions, half-truths and outright lies soon lead to the town turning on each other in the search for a scapegoat. Tragedy, suicide and murder inevitably follow...
This, of course, was the film that earned Clouzot a lasting reputation as a collaborator - made for the infamous German Continental films, it was attacked by both the Nazis for discouraging the French from informing (their main source of information during the occupation) and the resistance for attacking the French moral character. Of the two, it's pretty obvious the Nazis were on the right track. Even though the Germans are conspicuous by their absence, it makes clear that the anonymous informer/s are undermining solidarity and making the town easy prey for predators (it is implicit in the film that the Raven is not the only poison-pen writer in the town as a veritable flock of Ravens emerge).
The suspense comes not from the Raven's identity, which is blindingly obvious in this era of double-endings but must have seemed groundbreaking at the time, but from what damage the Raven will do next. Blessed with a surprisingly unlikable hero and a frankness lacking in US and British films of the period - abortion and drug-addiction are discussed as readily as adultery and embezzlement - there is a somewhat awkward Catholic moral imposed at the end (the good doctor learns it is better to let a mother die in childbirth to save the child than vice versa because the future is more important than the past) but it's still refreshingly dark. The script establishes character, setting and guilty secrets with remarkable economy and the film is blessed with a great use of location and some visually impressive set pieces: the funeral where people step around a letter left by the Raven before a child picks it up or the huge church silenced by a single letter fluttering down from the gallery are particularly striking. It also has a biting black wit and an interesting discussion about the interdependent nature of good and evil.
A genuine masterpiece, and entertaining with it, the Criterion DVD boasts exceptionally good print quality - sharp and clear - with an interesting 18-minute interview with Bertrand Tavernier on Continental and Clouzot and an interesting extract from a French documentary with Clouzot and others talking about the film and French cinema during the Nazi occupation."
Nicholas Edwards | Belchertown, MA United States | 02/19/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Nothing to add about the picture - splendid acting, menacing, claustrophobic atmosphere. Just a word about the disc - visually,
about one of the cleanest transfers of a film this old that I've yet seen. Looks like they had a good print to begin with, and did
what they usually do digitally - the result is pristine. Blacks very black, good contrast. However, they were a little overzealous with the sound, which in its filtered state is unusually tinny and whistly. This detracts somewhat from the overall quality of the presentation, but not too much. The extras are very good and most apropos, as one would expect of Criterion."