Les Diaboliques (1955) Criterion Review

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot

Writers: Pierre Boileau, Thomas Narcejac, Henri-Georges Clouzot

Stars: Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, Paul Meurisse

RATING: 4 Stars

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Christina Delassalle suffers greatly at the hands of her brutish husband Michel. She inherited the boys’ boarding school they run but it’s clearly Michel who is in charge. She and Nicole Horner, one of the teachers and Michel’s former lover, decide to kill him. Christina, who has a serious condition, is terrified when, by chance, she meets a retired police inspector who decides to look into the case. – From IMDB

This movie was absolutely fantastic. Gripping, suspenseful, a little eerie, it had all the vibes that so many modern thrillers try to pull off but end up narrowly missing, or in some cases, not so narrowly missing. And it doesn’t rely on any cheap effects or jump scares, or any of those modern type tropes to do so. All the atmosphere and creepiness ere is created through nothing but pure good storytelling, and that is a feat unto itself.

I didn’t really know what this film was about before I started it. I had heard some pretty good things, and am trying to expend my Criterion Collection, so picked this up when my local HMV was having a sale. The great thing about this collection is that, even if the film isn’t really for you, enough people thought it was great for it to be included, so you are at least going to be watching a decent film. So even though I had very little about the plot, my expectations were pretty high.

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Amazing performances all around, but particularly from Véra Clouzotm who plays the agonised Christina. As the fil goes on, and her mental state deteriorates, her performance just gets stronger and stronger, right up to that shocking twist ending. A trully stunning performacne.

And on the subject of the ending, I love when a twist ending from 65+ years ago still holds up. I had no idea what the ending was, and was completely taken back. Better than a lot of the so called shock ending we see in modern thrillers. And as a great little bonus, at the end of the film there is a title card that comes up, imploring audiences not to discuss the ending with other people, and to let them find it out for themselves. More films need to do that. I mean it probably wouldn’t help, but the attempt would be appreciated.

Overall a really good watch, and one of my favourites of this era so far.

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