Review: Inferno

Blu-ray: Inferno (1964)

Acclaimed director Henri-Georges Clouzot (Diabolque, The Wages of Fear) began work on what he planned to be his most ambitious piece of work yet. Set in a French lakeside town, Inferno tackled the darkest depths of jealousy, as controlling hotelier Marcel (Serge Reggiani) suspects his wife Odette (Remy Schneider) of being unfaithful to him. Haunted by visions of what his wife may be doing while away from him, Marcel’s mental state begins to unwind, forcing him to confront Odette about his suspicions.

Unfortunately, Inferno was never finished and filming was cancelled a mere 3 weeks into production.

Clouzot’s reputation as a filmmaker at the time granted him an unlimited budget from the movie studio that was financing this project. Full of (over)confidence, Clouzot proceeded to spend huge amounts of money on extensive pre-production test shots. He spent weeks pouring over lighting techniques, make-up, composition, and costumes for shots that would be onscreen for seconds. His obsession for getting everything ‘just perfect’ distracted him from the bigger picture of delivering a movie on time. He would set-up 3 camera crews on the premise of saving time by moving directly from 1 crew’s shot to the next without having to reset lights, camera’s and actors. However, this plan failed when his compulsion to concentrate on the minutiae of each individual shot had him spending an entire day with crew 1, while the other 2 crews spent the day twiddling their thumbs with nothing to do.

Clouzot, apparently, was not easy to work with. So much so that Reggiani walked off set claiming illness, and Jean-Louis Trintignant inherited the role of Marcel. This didn’t go smoothly either, as he too left after only 5 days and without making a single shot. Other actors stayed the distance but were pushed to their physical and mental limits.

The production eventually collapsed after 3 weeks due to arguments, technical complications and illness across multiple people. Clouzot suffered a heart attack on a speedboat while filming a scene and could not return. Whether this coronary was induced by the scene in question being 2 scantily clad females caressing each other, is purely conjecture on my part.

In 1992 Clouzot’s widow sold the script to Claude Chabrol who made the movie as L’Enfer, and in 2005 she disclosed the original raw footage publicly. This led to Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea to piece together the original rushes, screen tests and on-location footage, while also reconstructing and completing Clouzot’s original vision through interviews with cast and crew, dramatisations of unfilmed scenes, and Clouzot’s own notes.

Inferno is a fascinating documentary, not only for cinephiles who want to glean every piece of information from the production, but also as a character study of all involved in the making of the original movie during that crazy time in France.

Accompanied by informative special features, this release from Arrow Films showcases what a visual and auditory tour de force Clouzot intended to put onscreen.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Optional English subtitles
  • Lucy Mazdon on Henri-Georges Clouzot, the French cinema expert and academic talks at length about the films of Clouzot and the troubled production of Inferno
  • They Saw Inferno, a featurette including unseen material, providing further insight into the production of Inferno
  • Filmed Introduction by Serge Bromberg
  • Interview with Serge Bromberg
  • Stills gallery
  • Original trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Twins of Evil

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Ginette Vincendeau

Inferno is released on 5th February 2018 and you can buy it by clicking HERE. ALL money raised by purchasing from Amazon via our website is given back to our listeners and followers in upcoming competition prizes. The more people buy, the bigger our prizes.

Review by Dave (host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Arrow Films.