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Le Corbeau (The Raven) (1943)
Reviewed by Jamie Russell

updated 22nd July 2003

reviewer's rating
five star


Henri-Georges Clouzot

Henri-Georges Clouzot
Louis Chavance

Pierre Fresnay
Ginette Leclerc
Micheline Francey
Hélna Manson

93 minutes

Optimum Releasing




World Cinema

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In a provincial French town, 'The Raven' is at work, delivering poison pen letters to the local dignitaries.

The main focus of the letter writer's attention is the town's doctor, Remy Germain (Pierre Fresnay), a man with a shady past, haughty air, and secretive manner.

Accused of being an abortionist and adulterer, Germain is on the verge of being chased out of town... unless he can discover The Raven's true identity.

One of the few filmmakers to continue working during the Nazi occupation of France, Henri-Georges Clouzot's decision to join German-owned Continental Films produced one of the greatest French movies of the Second World War years. But it also brought him a great deal of misery, a subject touched on in "Laissez-Passer", Bertrand Tavernier's history of the Continental years.

Castigated by the left and the pro-Nazi Vichy regime for making a film that showed the French to be morally corrupt, the film was quickly pulled from theatres. After the occupation, Clouzot received a lifetime ban (later reduced to two years) from the film industry for allegedly supporting the Nazis.

It's easy to see why both sides of the political spectrum so vehemently denounced "Le Corbeau". With its misanthropic vision of human backbiting, this grippingly acerbic film gives no quarter, particularly not to the town's apparently respectable bourgeois clique of doctors, lawyers and politicians, all of whom end up being stained with the indelible ink of moral corruption. In Clouzot's vision, innocence is ephemeral and guilt is eternal.

Far from being a pro-Nazi film, "Le Corbeau" captures the reality of the Vichy regime and the paranoid culture of self-serving informing that it encouraged. It's a subversive work and masterful suspense thriller that's the equal of anything Hitchcock ever put his name to.

In French with English subtitles.

"Le Corbeau" is re-released in select UK cinemas on Friday 25th July 2003.

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