In Bernard Tavernier’s film Laissez Passer which I wrote about a few days ago Henri-Georges Clouzot gets indirectly a harsh treatment. He is one of these directors who continued to work under the German occupation during WWII, and was attacked for this attitude long time after. He was also a fine director, classics like Quai d’Orfevres, Le Salaire de la Peur (Wages of Fear, maybe the best role in the career of Yves Montand) and Diabolique are among the best works in French cinema until the emergence of the New Wave, which displaced Clouzot.

(video source DivineBB)

It is ironical that La Verite was his last great film, and that the New Wave exponents were so critical of him. The film contains in my opinion in it many of the elements that were further taken over, continued and amplified by Truffaut, Godard, et co. It is to some extent a milestone at the border between the classic and the new French cinema of the 60s. The subject itself speaks about the confrontation of two generations. A young girl is brought to trial. She killed her lover and the court needs to decide if this was an accident, or a passion crime, or a calculated murder. The tribunal is composed of all that represents the old generation – judges, lawyers, audience – all ready to pass a moral judgment or maybe a lynch on the girl. She comes from a different world, she belongs to a different generation, one that refuses to complain to conventions, she speaks a different language, listens to a different music, feels and loves differently. Today’s spectator cannot abstain from thinking about 1968, the year when than generation took the streets in France and elsewhere, and changed history. But the year is still 1960, and the verdict of the trial can be only one.

The intuition of Clouzot is ahead of time not only in what concerns the historical judgment. It is also in the style of filming. Most of the film is a court drama, in the American tradition of Kramer, just translated in French. A few scenes however are filmed in the street, part of the flashbacks that recall the story of the affair that ended in tragedy. Well these scenes are for all practical purposed New Wave. They do not only depict the Paris of the new generation, they are also filmed in the style of the new generation of directors. Here Clouzot bends graciously towards the young directors that will defame him.

(video source beatlessette)

And of course, there is Brigitte Bardot. This is one of her best roles, she plays the whole range of emotions she is capable of, is beautiful and vulnerable, passionate and desperate. She attracts men, she attracts the attention, she creates emotion. It is her against the whole world, in a personal rebellion with no chance of success. With this film she established herself as a serious actress, not only as a popular star. It is her film to the same extent that it’s Clouzot’s and it is one to remember.