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Sunday, May 25, 2008

MANON (1949)

With his short CV, Henri-George Clouzot is known only for his international hits, WAGES OF FEAR and DIABOLIQUE, yet every newfound title turns out to be a near masterpiece. This updated take on the infamous Prevost tale (operatic versions include Auber, Massenet & Puccini) is a notch below breathtaking ‘finds’ like QUAI DES ORFEVRES, LE CORBEAU and his striking film of the Verdi REQUIEM. But on its own terms it’s ingenious & effective, perfectly fitting the old story into the morally ambiguous climate of post WWII France. As the heedless young beauty who loves the rich life when she should love her besotted spouse (and vice versa), Cecile Aubry makes an appalling & devastating French sex-kitten, admittedly, an acquired taste. Michel Auclair, in Gerard Philipe mode, is very fine as her tormented husband and Serge Reggiani as Manon’s amoral brother is beyond praise. And who but Clouzot would have the chutzpah to morph Manon’s Louisiana exile from the novel to a group of Jewish refugees trying to smuggle themselves into Israel.

NOTE: This title is currently unavailable in ANY video format. Is there no justice?!

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