Re-watching the Classics: Diabolique

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Diabolique is a classic French film from 1955, loved by fans of foreign film, film noir and horror. This film is directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot based on a book by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac. This film revolves around three main characters in a love triangle.

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Christina Delassalle, played by Véra Clouzot, is a wealthy woman who owns a private school. She has a weak heart and is not going to live much longer.

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Nicole Horner, played by Simone Signoret, works at the school and is Christina’s confidant and friend.

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Michel Delassalle, played by Paul Meurisse, is married to Christina and is having an affair with Nicole. He beats both women and makes it well known to Christina that he wants her dead so he can sell the school and , her money.

When the two women cannot put up with Michel any longer, they plot his murder. Over a three day holiday they lure him away from the school, drug him and drowned him. They go back to the school, and throw Michel in the dirty pool. Everybody believes Michel has not left the school over the holiday. Everybody also has seen the two women leave the school for the holiday to go to Nicole’s home, hours away. Nicole has tenants who live up stairs to reinforce the alibi.

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This film is a slow burn and the tension increases with every passing scene. This has one of the best endings in all of film and will not be spoiled for those who have not seen it. The film actually tells you at the end not to talk about the ending so you do not ruin the film for everybody else. I guess spoilers where as common in 1955 as they are today.

This film needs to be seen by everybody who loves film. If you like suspense, thrillers, horror, or film noir, this is a must see.

The film got more notoriety five years later, when star Véra Clouzot died from a heart attack at 46, mirroring her character’s weak heart from this film. The film has made a number of best of lists, mostly in the horror genre, including Time Magazine’s Top 25 Horror films and Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments. This film has been remade 4 times, or at least used the same source material, over the years. The best know, is the remake starring Sharon Stone from 1996. This version pales in comparison to the original.

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Favorite Tidbit: If you think this film has a very Hitchcockian feel, you are not alone. Hitchcock himself tried to get the rights to the book, but was to late. This film was also a huge influence on Hitchcock when he made Psycho. It also influenced Robert Bloch when he wrote the book, and Bloch says Diabolique was his all time favorite horror film. In fact when Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac heard Hitchcock wanted to buy the rights to their book, they wrote their next book with Hitchcock in mind. Hitchcock did get the film rights to that novel, it became the film Vertigo.

 

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Article: 10 Great European Neo-Noir Films

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Jessica Kiang over at Indiewire has put together a nice little list of European neo noir films. I will be adding a few of these to my queue for sure. Is there any European neo noir films that should have been mentioned that were not?

Here is a link to the full list and article:

http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/10-great-european-neo-noir-films-20160121?page=1

Review: The Connection or La French

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You ever wonder what happened in in France while Popeye Doyle in New York was taking care of the events depicted in The French Connection? Well it has been a few decades since that classic film, but the concept is intriguing.

The Connection is a film from France, directed by Cédric Jimenez, made in 2014. The film is based on the true story of the heroin trade in the 1970’s and early 1980’s.

The movie revolves around two men on opposite sides of the law. Jean Dujardin plays Pierre Michel, a police magistrate hell bent on taking down the drug trade in Marseilles. Michel bends the laws a bit to get the job done and has to balance family and work throughout the film.

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Our second man this film revolves around is Gaëtan ‘Tany’ Zampa played by Gilles Lellouche. This is the man Michel is trying to bring down. He is the head of the drug cartel and rules with an iron fist. When Michel will bend a rule or break a law to get ahead in this film, our criminal Zampa uses the law and manipulates the police force to keep himself out of prison and in power.
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We also get a plethora of characters from drug dealers, chemists, cops and gang members. The look at France in the 1970’s with the similarities and differences between a Disco era America are fun as well.

The film would make for an interesting double feature with The French Connection. Read my look at the original classic here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/04/11/re-watching-the-classics-the-french-connection-2/

This film has a very different tone and feel then The French Connection, but tackles the same historic events, just from a total different perspective. This film is worth seeking out for fans of true-crime, history, French cinema and noir.

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Review: 36th Precinct

The 36th Precinct is a French neo noir written and directed by Olivier Marchal. This film revolves around two men fighting for power in the police force. They are played by Daniel Auteuil who plays Leo and Gérard Depardieu who plays Denis. This film takes place over a long period of time and has many sub plots. There are also a number of minor characters, some of which I wish we learned a bit more about. The two stand outs for me are Catherine Marchal, who plays a detective new to Denis’ team and Francis Renaud, who plays a hot head young officer on Leo’s team.

This story starts out with a perfectly executed armed car robbery. The group all wear masks and work well as a team. Leo’s team is soon on the scene to investigate. Denis’ team also shows up at the scene of the crime. We can see the tension between our two leads as we learn they where once friends but something has made them bitter enemies. Then there is a meeting between the Police Chef and Leo, he is told who ever solves this crime is more than likely going to be the new Police Chef.

This sets up a fight for power between the two, both of which use criminal connections to get ahead. These criminal connections maybe the downfall of one or both of our leads. This story is a more complicated than a simple armed car robbery case and covers many years of back and forth struggles between these two men.

This film has been in development for sometime as a Hollywood remake. I think this is actually a good idea. Moving the film to a United States city and adding a little to the plot for an American audience may actually make for a good film. I feel this film is very good, but I personally think this plot is to complex for a simple 2 hour film. I would love to see this developed into a premium cable channel’s television series. This could be great as an 8 hour series in the vain of True Detective or Rectify. They could develop a few of the other characters and both of the main characters marriages in a short series. This could even be a jumping off point for a season 2. Either way I look forward to the remake of this film and in the meantime I think most will enjoy this original.

Review: Renaissance

Renaissance is an animated sci-fi neo noir made in 2006 using CGI, Motion Capture, and only Black and White with no shades of grey. This film is French and directed by Christian Volckman, but since it is animated it does not have subtitles, but is re-voiced in English. Daniel Craig voices our main character Karas.

This film takes place in a future Paris of 2054 and combines a classic noir look and story in part, with a futuristic sci-fi plot line. The film starts with our hard-boiled detective, Karas having a nightmare of his past. This shows his hard upbringing and his mind state in the present. The film takes us to a flashy club where we meet two sisters. They are an yin yang pairing as one is a hard driven scientist and one is a slacker who just wants to have fun and can careless about work. Our hard-working scientist is kidnapped while leaving the club with no trace. Karas is brought on to the case to find her and she has to be alive. The girl works for a big corporation called Avalon and they work on anti-aging and health products. They are also very powerful. This is where Karas starts his investigation. Was our kidnap victim part of corporate espionage? a victim of circumstance? Did she discover something in the lab she shouldn’t have? Will Karas find her?

This film is more style then substance. It isn’t a bad story, but your senses are drawn to the visual style more than anything.

This is a fun film to watch, think a mix of Sin City and Blade Runner. If this sounds amazing to you, you should check out this film. Though I would recommend both of those films over this one, it is still worth watching.

Review: Bob le Flambeur

Bob le Flambeur is a French film noir from Jean-Pierre Melville. Melville also came up with the story and co-wrote the screenplay.

This story has a lot of characters and plot lines, all of which revolve around Bob, played by Roger Duchesne. Bob is a gambler and has had many successes, but is on a losing streak and is about out of money. We see him go through the night losing money at one casino and then another. As he goes through the city we meet our femme fatale, the young Anne played by Isabelle Corey. Bob’s young protegé, played by Daniel Cauchy, meets him for drinks. A pimp played by Gérard Buhr, bursts into his apartment in the middle of the night. The Pimp needs some money to leave town, he has beat up one of his girls and put her in the hospital. The pimp is afraid she will press charges this time. We also meet other characters like the cop who Bob saved from being shot years ago, and other gangsters and con men.

When Bob is out of money, he comes up with a plan to rob a casino. He uses his connections to set up a team of robbers and con artists to help him pull it off. Can a gang of outlaws work together to rob a casino? Will somebody double cross the team? Will Bob’s gambling get in the way?

This is a very good film, a film with a story I thought I had seen before, and I guess I have. This film has been remade as The Good Thief by Neil Jordan. It also was an influence on Sinatra’s Ocean’s 11 as well as Soderbergh’s re-make.Quentin Tarantino says this is his favorite gangster film and was an influence on Reservoir Dogs. Stanley Kubrick says he stopped making crime films after this movie, saying he could never top this film. It is also Jim Jarmusch favorite film. So needless to say this film has been an important influence on many of the great film makers of today and has been cribbed for some of the best heist films since its release.

So if that doesn’t make you want to check it out I don’t know what will. If you haven’t seen it in a while, re-watch it to see if you can pick up on how this movie touched so many movies that came after it.

Review: Sleepless Night or Nuit blanche

Sleepless Night is a neo-noir from France, filmed in 2011. Frédéric Jardin directed and co-wrote the film. This film stars Tomer Sisley as a hard-boiled cop, who we cheer for the whole movie, but we are not sure if he is a good guy or just another bad guy that made his own bed and now he has to lie in it.

This is an interesting premise and well thought out. The film starts with a high-speed car chase and we are in the pursuing car. There are two men putting on full face ski masks and they finally stop the car. There is a fight and one of the masked men gets cut with a knife. The other masked man shots and kills one of the men in the first car and starts chasing the other one, but not before our masked man with the knife wound looses his mask and we see it is our hero played by Sisley. There are people on the street that witness the chaos and could I.D. our hero. Sisley chases down his partner, who has lost the man he was chasing. They did get the bag they were after though. We find the bag contains a lot of cocaine, more than they thought. We also find out our two masked criminals are police officers.

The gangster who sold the drugs has found out who our hero is and has kidnapped his son. Sisley must return the stolen drugs to get his young son back. His partner is against this, but Sisley goes anyway. He goes to the gangster’s night club to do the exchange when all hell breaks loose. The rest of the movie takes place in this gigantic, very popular night club as our hero juggles illegal immigrants working in the club, the gangster who was selling the drugs and owns the club, the drug dealer who purchased the drugs, some internal affairs police officers, some corrupt police and an array of thugs, bartenders, chefs and club goers while trying to save his son. This is a wild ride and very exciting.

An American remake is being filmed as I publish this review. Jamie Foxx will play our hero and it will also star Michelle Monaghan, Dermot Mulroney, and Gabrielle Union. I can see from the brief description of the American version that we will know Foxx is an undercover cop in the film. This film is very ambiguous about whether our hero is a dirty cop that got in over his head, or if he is an internal affairs officer working undercover. I’m still not sure what to believe and I’m sure everyone that sees it will have a different interpretation. This is what makes this wild ride such a good neo-noir and by telling the audience he is an undercover cop, I think will make the film less interesting. I of course will hold judgement until I see it.

This original film is well worth seeing for fans of French noir and neo-noir films. It is also very action packed and will appeal to action junkies too. See it before yet another great foreign film get an American re-make.

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