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Quai des Orfèvres

By Eric Allen Hatch | Posted

Since his subsequent works include two enormously effective thrillers--Wages of Fear (1953) and Diabolique (1955)--one approaches French proto-auteur Henri-Georges Clouzot's recently restored murder story Quai des Orfèvres (1947) expecting a tense, chilling mystery. In fact, while dabbling in the film noir subset, Clouzot's humorous, character-driven movie resists most trappings of the broader thriller genre and constantly defies categorization. Chanteuse Jenny Lamour (Suzy Delair) seeks to advance her career however possible, including flirting with randy movie producers. This behavior results in intense jealousy on the part of her husband and musical partner, Maurice Martineau (Bernard Blier), jealousy that mounts until he finally sets out after one of Jenny's potential seducers in a murderous rage--only to find that someone else beat him to the job. In a successful structural quirk, it is only at this late point in the film that its purported lead character--world-weary police inspector Antoine (Louis Jouvet)--enters the picture. Subtle amusement abounds even in this film's darkest corners, as does a remarkable level of sexual innuendo. A compelling and idiosyncratic work.

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