2 November 2008 | jzappa
Clouzot's Least Dark Suspense Thriller
The extraordinarily adorable Suzy Delair plays a statuesque performer obsessed with succeeding in the theater. Her husband and accompanist, played by Bernard Blier, is a composed but jealous man. When he finds out in a less than preferable way that his flashy wife has planned a rendezvous with a lecherous old businessman with the intention of advancing her career, he loses all control and threatens the businessman with murder. Now, at that point, I must stop describing the film to you because it skates on such thin ice with its twists, revelations, ambiguities and suspense that to imply any of it would endanger it. I am not sure how good or bad that is for this French police procedural emanating from the song- and-dance community, though it is certainly interesting that what we do know throughout is who did not do it. We just don't know who did.
The story depends upon the procedure of following clues, where ideal alibis fail and where cautiously created fabrications and deceptions disintegrate. Interestingly, this is a suspense film in which suspense is generated in spite of the knowledge one would traditionally think too much too soon.
Quay of the Goldsmiths is the least dark of Henri-Georges Clouzot's films. It's nowhere near as sinister as the shocking Les Diaboliques, as tragic as the riveting Wages of Fear or as eery as Le Corbeau. Maybe it is due to the vibrance of the dance halls and theater settings of 1940s France, which all work as the milieu of this crime thriller.
Clouzot both understands and approves of his characters, even the more rotten ones, where he has more of a vindictive streak with his other films. Where he may have had understanding for the scheming women in Les Diabolique or the truck drivers who sink to the level of risking horrible death in order to oust themselves from miserable life in The Wages of Fear, there isn't necessarily support or agreement on the part of the filmmaker, for these are characters who plainly made the direct decisions that determine their fate. All the characters in this more settling film have scenes and moments that endear us to them, even the harsh, cold detective played by Louis Jouvet, who worries about his young adoptive son amid all the trouble and despair that happens in his life at any time with the drop of a hat.
There is humor and unabashed sexiness, the latter mostly on the part of Delair, that neutralize the pressure to a degree. Clouzot was quietly practicing his craft, patient till he made his unrelenting later films, in which he would permit his audiences no pardon from the tension.