Friday, January 13, 2017

Les Diaboliques (Diabolique) (1955)

A 1955 French psychological noir thriller directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot (Quai des Orfèvres (1947), Le salaire de la peur (The Wages of Fear ) (1953), ), starring Simone Signoret (Gunman in the Streets (1950), Casque d'Or (1952), Is Paris Burning? (1966), Army of Shadows (1969)), Véra Clouzot (Le salaire de la peur (The Wages of Fear) (1953)), Paul Meurisse (Sergil chez les filles (1952), Army of Shadows (1969), Le Deuxieme Souffle (1966)) and Charles Vanel (The Wages of Fear (1953), To Catch a Thief (1955)).  

The film was based on the novel Celle qui n'était plus (She Who Was No More) by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac. The screenplay was by Henri-Georges Clouzot, Jérôme Géronimi, René Masson and Frédéric Grende.

Cinematography was by Armand Thirard (Quai des Orfèvres (1947), Le salaire de la peur (1953)), and music was by Georges Van Parys (Casque d'Or (1952)).

Nichole (Simone Signoret) 

Michel (Paul Meurisse)

Christina (Vera Clouzot)

 Inspector Fichet (Charles Vanel)

A cheap boarding school near Paris is run by tightwad headmaster Michel Delassalle (Meurisse). The school is owned by Delassalle's sickly wife Christina, who is also a teacher. Christina has a heart condition which prevents her from performing her wifely duties, so Michel has taken to banging the blonde Nicole Horner (Signoret), another teacher at the school. The prospect of Nicole becoming Michel's mistress has no effect between the two women since Michel is verbally abusive to both of them and woman beater to boot. They both despise him.

Nichole concocts a plan to off Michel. Christina, is indecisive at first, but after more rounds of abuse from Michel agrees to the plan. Threatening divorce, Christina leaves the school, drives with
Nichole to Nichole's hometown Niort and stays at her apartment. This lures Michel away from the school in pursuit of his meal ticket. Using a sedative mixed into a bottle of Johnnie Walker scotch she gets Michel to drink it. Michel passes out. Nichole and Christina carry him into the bathroom and drown him in the bath tub. Hiding his body in a large wicker basket Nichole and Christina drive back to the school and dump Michel into a disused swimming pool. They figure that once the body floats up to the top it will look like an accident.

Of course the body never floats to the top and everything goes exquisitely Noirsville.







Vera Clouzot, is a delight as the pious, frail, nervous, stepped on one to many times, wife. Simone Signoret seems almost butch in comparison. She is a big full figured woman and she towers over Christina both physically and mentally. There have been some critiques that state that Nicole may have lesbian designs on Christina, I got the same faint vibe. Paul Meurisse comes off like a French Jack Webb, and Charles Vanel's Inspector Fichet I hear is the original prototype of Colombo.

One of the best French Noir, screencaps are from the Criterion DVD. 10/10


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