16 December 2005 | jotix100
An inspector calls
"Quai des Orfevres", directed by the brilliant Henri-Georges Clouzot, is a film to treasure because it is one of the best exponents of French film making of the postwar years. M. Clouzot, adapting the Steeman's novel, "Longtime Defence", shows his genius in the way he sets the story and in the way he interconnects all the characters in this deeply satisfying movie that, as DBDumonteil has pointed out in this forum, it demonstrates how influential Cluzot was and how much the next generation of French movie makers are indebted to the master, especially Claude Chabrol.
The crisp black and white cinematography by Armand Thirard has been magnificently transferred to the Criterion DVD we recently watched. Working with Clouzot, Thirard makes the most of the dark tones and the shadows in most of the key scenes. The music by Francis Lopez, a man who created light music and operettas in France, works well in the context of the film, since the action takes place in the world of the music halls and night clubs.
Louis Jouvet, who is seen as a police detective, is perfect in the part. This was one of his best screen appearances for an actor who was a pillar of the French theater. Jouvet clearly understood well the mechanics for the creation of his police inspector who is wiser and can look deeply into the souls of his suspects and ultimately steals the show from the others. In an unfair comment by someone in this page, Jouvet's inspector is compared with Peter Falk's Columbo, the television detective. Frankly, and no disrespect to Mr. Falk intended, it's like comparing a great champagne to a good house wine.
Bernard Blier is perfect as the jealous husband. Blier had the kind of face that one could associate with the man consumed with the passion his wife Jenny Lamour has awakened in him. Martineau is vulnerable and doesn't act rationally; he is an easy suspect because he has done everything wrong as he finds in the middle of a crime he didn't commit, but all the evidence points to the contrary.
The other great character in the film is Dora, the photographer. It's clear by the way she interacts with Jenny where her real interest lies. Simone Renant is tragically appealing as this troubled woman and makes an enormous contribution to the film. Suzy Delair, playing Jenny, is appealing as the singer who suddenly leaps from obscurity to celebrity and attracts the kind of men like Brignon, the old lecher.
The film is one of the best Clouzot directed during his distinguished career and one that will live forever because the way he brought all the elements together.