Friday, July 3, 2009
Day 145: Les Diaboliques (1955) - Rank 5/5
Intrigue, suspense and mood are all perfectly intertwined in Henri-George Clouzot's horror/film noir. More Hitchcock than Hitchcock, so to speak, the film is the tale of two women - Nicole, a spurned mistress(Simone Signoret in an early role), and Christina, an abused wife (Vera Clouzot) both out to kill the man who has made their lives miserable (Michel played by Paul Meurisse). The two execute the perfect murder - drowning Michel in a bathtub at Nicole apartment in the secluded French countryside. They dump his body into a swimming pool with the hopes that everything will look like an accident, but when Michel's body goes missing, all goes to hell. Nicole and Christina slowly descend into panic as they try to determine what happened as well as deal with the police. All the while, they're taunted by an unknown individual who delights in toying with their consciences though depraved acts, such as sending the suit that Michel died in, pressed and clean, to the two killers. Who found out about the crime and what do they want? Could Michel really be alive, and if so, how could he survive a night anchored at the bottom of a filled bathtub? These are the questions that plague the two until the chilling climax where all is answered.
Regrettably, I knew the ending going into this film. "Les Diaboliques" is akin to "The Sixth Sense," "Planet of the Apes," or Citizen Kane" in the sense that it is a film that banks on its twist ending and as such, it is a plot device that has become so readily known that individuals might know the twist, but be unfamiliar as to what film its from (For example, "Rosebud" references are peppered throughout popular culture, including Saturday morning cartoon shows. While children don't know what film is being referenced, they are familiar with the twist). Nevertheless, I was worried upon viewing that knowing the outcome of the story would diminish my enjoyability of the film. Nothing could be further from the truth, though. If anything, I enjoyed the film more, because I wasn't preoccupied with trying to outguess the story or waiting on baited breath for the hook. I could relax and enjoy the film for what it was - an excellent tale of revenge. Furthermore, I relished watching the story progress to the inevitable conclusion it had to reach (enjoying the ride more than the time spent at the destination, so to speak).
Am I saying "Tell me the endings to every movie, please?" No. But I became immune to knowing the finales of films prior to viewing long ago. Call it an occupational hazard of working in a theater. People strolling out of the picture they just saw regularly spoil the finishes of movies for me as they converse aloud about what they just saw. I overlook it, though. After all, there aren't enough bathtubs for all of them.
Watch the Trailer