Given that this film began shooting almost 50 years ago is intriguing enough. Flicker Alley has upped the ante by including a second disc of supplementary material that allows us to study this compelling project long after the film itself is over.
Movie Grade: A
DVD Grade: A-
Back in 1964, director Henri-Georges Clouzot made a film that never was. An extremely
accomplished director at the time, thanks to excellent films like Diabolique, The Wages of
Fear, and Le Corbeau:
The Raven, Clouzot had everything lined up to add Inferno to that incredible list. He had his small budget
increased immensely once the studio got a look at some of the great footage he initially shot, a stellar pair of lead
actors in Romy Schneider (The Trial) and Serge Reggiani (Army of Shadows), and
what many considered to be a
groundbreaking screenplay. Unfortunately, things went very awry when Clouzot began driving everyone on the set
crazy with unexplained long shooting schedules and numerous other idiosyncrasies, causing the production to
eventually shut down and the film remain unfinished. 45 years later, filmmakers Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra
Medrea crafted the documentary Henri-George Clouzot’s Inferno, a chronicle of the production of Clouzot’s
incomplete film, with some amazing new surprises interspersed with the interview and on-set footage.
The plot of Clouzot’s film centers on Odette (Schneider), the cheating wife of Marcel (Reggiani), her eternally
jealous husband. Marcel’s jealousy leads to insanity, with his possible misconceptions of his wife’s malfeasance
leading his mind to craft demons that not only threaten the existence of his marriage, but his, and Odette’s lives.
While this exciting concept could have resulted in a phenomenal, trippy film, it only led to a collection of footage
that was never used as a final product, let alone seen by anyone outside of the Clouzot family. Until now, that is,
as Bromberg and Medrea, working as relative partners with Inès, Clouzot’s widow, have essentially finished his film.
Their version of Inferno consists of standard documentary fare, like (new) interviews, a look at original storyboards
and director notes, and, most impressively of all, re-enactments that also serve to fill in some unfilmed blanks.
These re-enactments are what drive Henri-George Clouzot’s Inferno, as they use current actors to embody the
roles originally owned by the late Schneider and Reggiani. Bérénice Bejo (currently wowing international audiences
in The Artist) plays Odette and Jacques Gamblin (The Names of Love) is Marcel, and the two actors do a
phenomenal job shooting scenes that Clouzot drew up in his screenplay and storyboards, but was never able to put
on film. These amazing sequences are seamlessly worked into the rest of Bromberg and Medrea’s film, perfectly
complementing interview footage with those who were on Clouzot’s set while he was shooting his film. We hear
from art director Jacques Douy, effects master Eric Duvivier, William Lubtchansky, a camera operator, as well as
assistant directors Bernard Stora, and Costa-Gavras, but the most touching interview involves Inès, a truly engaging
woman who gives us great insight into both Clouzot the filmmaker, and Clouzot the man.
This award-winning film (including the 2010 César Award for Best Documentary), wouldn’t be the same without
the inclusion of both the aforementioned re-enactments, and the unveiling of the previously unseen footage that
Clouzot managed to shoot. Getting a glimpse of his psychedelic, extremely interesting vision leaves one with the
mixed emotions of excitement and sorrow that the film was never wholly realized. Sure, Clouzot is apparently
mostly responsible for its downfall, but that doesn’t change the fact that this could have been an unforgettable
cinematic experience. Fortunately, and thanks to Bromberg and Medrea, Henri-George Clouzot’s Inferno is just
such an experience that is wonderfully presented on Blu-ray by Flicker Alley. This is a 2-disc set, with a Blu-ray
dedicated to the feature film, as well as an introduction by director Serge Bromberg, an image gallery, and They
Saw Inferno, the crown jewel of the extras. This piece is essentially a documentary about another documentary, in
that it chronicles the making of Henri-George Clouzot’s Inferno, by going the more traditional route of using
almost all interview footage to tell its story. There’s a DVD also included in this package, which also houses the
feature film, and only has the Bromberg interdiction along for the ride as an extra feature.