Le Corbeau; Raven, The

1767. LE CORBEAU (THE RAVEN) (1943-FRANCE). WITH pierre fresnay, ginette leclerc, HELENA MANSON. Directed and co-scripted by HENRI-GEORGES CLOUZOT. Here’s a tense, clever, brilliantly acted and directed, and, at the time of its release, most controversial-chiller, which will at once confound you and keep you on the edge of your seat. The setting is a rural French village, whose inhabitants find themselves at the mercy of a mystery person who’s been composing poison pen letters. As a result, there’s a tension in the town that’s as thick as a London fog. Who could the culprit be? Various townspeople suspect the terse, child-hating doctor (expertly played by the always-reliable Pierre Fresnay); the lame, loose-moraled girl (Ginette Leclerc, who is superb); and the woman who is ill (Helena Manson). The guilty party could be any one of this trio. Or, it may be someone else. Clouzot establishes the setting, and builds the suspense as effectively as in any Hitchcock thriller. This was his second feature, and for obvious reasons it earned him a press book full of critical kudos. Unfortunately, though, the film was made at the height of World War II, was financed by a Nazi film company, and its publicity seemed to over-stress that the scenario was set in a “typical small French town.” There were accusations that it was being used in Germany to defame the French (even though it was based on a story that had been written before the war). This did not seem unreasonable at the time, given that it’s difficult to find one likable character in the story. Whatever Clouzot’s intention, it remains indisputable that he did allow himself to be professionally affiliated, and if you will, to “collaborate”, with the Nazis. He should not have been surprised when, after the war, he was held up to scrutiny by his countrymen. Indeed, the film was taken out of distribution for two years, and Clouzot was not allowed to practice his profession for half-a-year. He did not shoot another feature until 1947. In French with English subtitles. 91 minutes. Crime-Mystery-Suspense