Thursday, July 15, 2010
Serge Bromberg excavates (and diddles) HENRI-GEORGES CLOUZOT'S INFERNO
HENRI-GEORGES CLOUZOT'S INFERNO is more of a meditation on jealousy -- and film-making -- than any kind of "real" documentary you'll have viewed in your movie-going career. As famous a non-existent film as Terry Gilliam's never-happened Don Quixote movie (which is said to be not happening yet again!), Clouzot's "Inferno," I would guess, holds a similar place in the annals of French filmmaking.
In 1964, fabled French filmmaker Henri George Clouzot began directing Romy Schneider, then 26, and Serge Reggiani, 42, in his new film L'Enfer (Hell). By the end of three weeks, all enfer had broken loose, worst followed worse, and what existed of this film -- never completed -- was stowed away in a vault, until... One day, Serge Bromberg (below, right), the co-director (with Ruxandra Medrea, below, left) of this documentary, found himself stuck in an suddenly out-of-service elevator with a woman who turned out to be Clouzot's widow. Chatting away their time together while the lift was repaired, she told him the story -- a whopping good one -- of the history and making of that never-completed film.
He experiments with unusual uses of color,
Le Doulos), a fine actor not so well known on these shores. The oddest thing the filmmakers have done is to use present-day performers, who fit relatively well into the Schneider/Reggianni mode, and have them act out sections of the "Enfer" script. Jacques Gamblin (at right, below, The Color of Lies) and Berénice Bejo (at left, below, OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies) do just fine with this, but because the idea is not particularly intrinsic, it ends up seeming more like filler.
Costa-Gavras, of what was going on during the shoot, and we begin to see, hear and even feel the film -- and Clouzot -- beginning to fall apart. It's odd and creepy, but if jealousy is indeed to blame, we don't really get close enough to the source of it to begin to understand it. However, I warrant that we've all suffered from the green-eyed monster at one time or other, so putting ourselves in the place of the filmmaker, we can at least identify a bit. And the sense of sadness and waste only grows stronger as the documentary moves along and we learn what happened to Inferno and its would-be creators. Even so, and with all the tsuris experienced from within and without, I left this movie with absolute surety of only one thing: The biggest curse any filmmaker can have fall on him is his producer giving him an unlimited budget.
Flicker Alley/MK2/Lobster Films release, begins its theatrical run this Friday, July 16, at Manhattan's IFC Center. You can find further screenings -- dates and cities -- here.