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'Quai Des Orfevres'

'Quai' restored post-war French film noir

Friday, June 27, 2003

By John Hayes, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Henri-Georges Clouzot had a good thing going. Successful screenwriter. Promising filmmaker. Then, in Nazi-occupied France, he released "Le Corbeau," a scathing vivisection of French character that so royally maddened the French

 
 
'Quai Des Orfevres'

RATING: Not rated, contains mild violence, partial nudity. In French with English subtitles.

STARRING: Suzy Delair, Bernard Blier

DIRECTOR: Henri-Georges Clouzot

   
 

and the Germans that he was blacklisted for four years.

"Quai des Orfevres" marked Clouzot's 1947 return to an industry that he later rewarded with the masterworks "Les Diaboliques" and "The Wages of Fear." The title phrase of his relentless film noir refers to the Paris district where the police Criminal Investigative Division is located, the equivalent of Scotland Yard.

Originally released in the States as "Jenny Lamour," "Quai" has been virtually unavailable here for a half-century. Recently restored in 35mm and new colloquial subtitles, the film is making a tour of American art houses.

Jenny Lamour is a shameless chanteuse willing to do anything to advance her singing and film career. Maurice is her amiable husband with a violent, jealous streak. Dora, their friend, is a lesbian photographer with the hots for Jenny, and Brignon is a hunchbacked lecher and arts investor who gives new meaning to the phrase "dirty old man."

When one of them is killed, everybody takes the blame to protect the others in an overlapping series of alibis and cover-ups. Out of the dark, seamy streets of post-war Paris comes Detective Lt. Antoine, a complex proto-Columbo, to find out whodunit.

Paris stage star Louis Jouvet is riveting as the policeman, and Suzy Delair, Clouzot's real-life partner, performs wonderfully in several cabaret interludes. Clouzot, however, who shared the writing credits, didn't seem to know how to end "Quai des Orfevres," and the white subtitles are often hard to read over black-and-white film.


John Hayes can be reached at jhayes@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1991.

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