Quai des Orfèvres

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Not to be confused with 36 Quai des Orfèvres (film).
Quai des Orfèvres
QuaiDesOrfevres.jpg
French film poster
Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot
Produced by Roger de Venloo
Screenplay by Henri-Georges Clouzot
Jean Ferry
Based on Légitime défense 
by Stanislas-André Steeman
Starring Louis Jouvet
Suzy Delair
Bernard Blier
Simone Renant
Music by Francis Lopez
Cinematography Armand Thirard
Edited by Charles Bretoneiche
Distributed by Coronis
Release dates 3 October 1947 (1947-10-03TFrance)
Running time 106 minutes
Country France
Language French

Quai des Orfèvres is a 1947 French police procedural[1] drama based on the book Légitime défense by Stanislas-Andre Steeman. Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot the film stars Suzy Delair as Jenny Lamour, Bernard Blier as Maurice Martineau, Louis Jouvet as Inspector Antoine and Simone Renant as Dora.

The film was Clouzot's third directorial effort, and the first after the controversy of Le corbeau. Without having the novel on hand, Clouzot and Jean Ferry based the film on memory and deviated significantly from the original story.[1] The film was released in France and was popular with both audiences and critics. On the film's re-release in the United States in 2002, it continued to receive praise from critics as one of the director's best films.

Plot[edit]

Jenny Lamour (Delair) wants to succeed in the theatre. Her husband and accompanist is Maurice Martineau (Blier), a mild-mannered but jealous man. When he finds out that Jenny has been making eyes at Brignon, a lecherous old businessman, in order to further her career, he loses his temper and threatens Brignon with death. Despite this, Jenny goes to a secret rendezvous at Brignon's apartment. He is murdered the same evening. The criminal investigations are led by Inspector Antoine (Jouvet).

Production[edit]

Quai des Orfèvres was directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot and was his first film in four years. Clouzot had been banned from film making after the controversy after the release Le corbeau and due to Clouzot's collaboration with the German-owned company Continental Films.[2][3] During Clouzot's inactivity, he wrote scripts for films that were never released. He met with producer Anatole Eliacheff who offered to financially back Clouzot's next film provided that it would be a commercial film. Clouzot suggested the Belgian murder mystery Légitime défense (English: Self-Defense) by Stanislas-André Steeman which he had read during the Occupation. This production was meant to be a commission to end Clouzot's four years of enforced inactivity and take advantage of the new popular style of crime literature. Clouzot had previously written screenplays based on Steeman's work including Georges Lacombe's Le Dernier des six (1943) and his own debut, L'Assassin habite au 21. Eliacheff agreed and shortly after sold the rights to another producer, Roger de Venloo.[4]

When trying to find a copy of Légitime défense to re-read, Clouzot found that it was out of print. Clouzot wrote a letter to the Steeman to obtain a copy and began to adapt the story from memory with writer Jean Ferry. By the time a copy of the book arrived, Clouzot and Ferry had already written the script which deviated greatly from Steeman's novel. The changes in the script include the identity of the real murderer, the settings of the action, and the introduction of the lesbian photographer character Dora Monier.[4][5]

Quai des Orfèvres was also a comeback film for director-actor Louis Jouvet with whom Clouzot had become good friends before World War II. Jouvet accepted the part of Inspector Antoine on the condition that a flexible shooting schedule would be allowed and that Clouzot would cast some of Jouvet's troupe members in the film.[4] Clouzot agreed and cast Leo Lapara as one of Antoine's colleagues and Fernand René as the music hall director.[4] Clouzot cast Charles Dullin as Brignon, the murder victim. It would be the last film appearance for Dullin, who died in 1949. The main female lead was written for Suzy Delair who was Clouzot's romantic partner at the time of filming. The film went into production on 3 February 1947 and finished filming on 10 May.[4]

Cast[edit]

Release and reception[edit]

Quai des Orfèvres was released on 3 October 1947 in Paris.[6] In 1947, it was the fourth most popular film in France, drawing 5.5 million spectators.[7] The film has had several theatrical revivals in France since its original release.[4] The film was released in New York in March 1948 under the title Jenny Lamour.[4][8] Quai des orfèvres was re-released for a limited run within America on October 25, 2002.[9][10]

Critical reception[edit]

The film received positive reception from critics on its initial release in France. Pierre Chartier of France-Libre wrote that the film was "a watershed in the history of the French crime film."[4] Jean Desternes of Combat praised the director Clouzot, referring to him as "not just a film director. He's a creative artist who sticks to his initial idea, works it out in shots, words, actions."[4] François Chalais wrote a positive review in Carrefour, stating the film "commands the keenest admiration at any given moment, the dialogue of the film is the work of a truly great and extremely subtle dramatist. That's one of M. Clouzot's most remarkable traits: he knows how to write."[4] At the 1947 Venice International Film Festival, Clouzot won the International Prize for Best Director for the film.[11] The film received positive critical reception in the United States on its initial release. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times referred to the film as "a fascinating and penetrating film".[8] Richard L. Coe of The Washington Post referred to the film as "a fine, engrossing French crime film".[12] Variety gave the film a positive review, proclaiming that "In every respect [Quai des Orfèvres] is outstanding."[13] In 1949, the film won an Edgar Award for Best Foreign film.[14]

Modern reception of the film has also been positive. French critics have continued to priase the film since its release. In 1964 Jean Mitry wrote that the film is "one of the few films—with Renoir's Rules of the Game, All About Eve, and two or three others—which allows us to think that the cinema, like the novel and the theater, can some day be an instrument for exploring the human soul."[4] In 1986, Michel Perez wrote a review for Le Matin de Paris stating that Quai des Orfèvres "was nothing less than the most powerful, best constructed, best written, best directed and most telling film about society of its day."[4] In 1995, a critics poll in the French film magazine Positif placed Quai des Orfèvres as the second greatest French thriller of all time.[15] The film ranking website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 100% of critics had given the film positive reviews, based upon a sample of 30.[16] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film has received an average score of 89, based on 10 reviews.[10]

Home media[edit]

Quai des Orfèvres was released in North America on DVD by The Criterion Collection on May 27, 2003.[17] In the United Kingdom, a DVD was released on 30 April 2007 by Optimum Releasing.[18] The Criterion DVD is now out of print.[19]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Sante, Luc (May 26, 2003). "Quai des Orfèvres". Film essay. Criterion Collection. Retrieved 2011-10-20. Quai des Orfèvres is nominally a policier—a crime story, less a mystery than a police procedural; its title, referring to the Parisian equivalent of Scotland Yard, announces it....Clouzot himself was not especially interested in the whodunit aspect, as can be seen from the fact that when he couldn’t turn up a copy of the source novel by the prolific Belgian pulp writer Stanislas-André Steeman, he adapted it from memory, leaving only faint traces of the original story. 
  2. ^ Le Corbeau (Back cover). Henri-Georges Clouzot. New York City, United States: The Criterion Collection. 2004 [1942]. 227. 
  3. ^ Tavernier, Bertrand (interviewee) (2002). Bertrand Tavernier interview (DVD). New York City, United States: The Criterion Collection. ISBN 0-7800-2786-8. Retrieved 16 August 2009. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Borger, Lenny (2002). "Production Notes on the "Quai" of Inspector Clouzot". Film Forum. Archived from the original on January 2, 2011. Retrieved March 10, 2010. 
  5. ^ Mayne 2007, p.88
  6. ^ Borger, Lenny (2002). "Production Credits". Film Forum. Retrieved March 10, 2010. 
  7. ^ Lloyd 2007, p. 30
  8. ^ a b Crowther, Bosley (March 8, 1948). "'Jenny Lamour,' French Crime Film, Stars Louis Jouvet, Playing the Detective" (requires subscription). The New York Times: 17. Retrieved February 10, 2010. 
  9. ^ "About Rialto". Rialto Pictures. Retrieved March 11, 2010. 
  10. ^ a b "Quai des Orfèvres (re-release): Reviews". Metacritic. CNET Networks, Inc. Retrieved March 11, 2010. 
  11. ^ Crisp, 1997. p 427
  12. ^ Coe, Richard L. (May 4, 1948). "Realism Etches French Whodunit" (requires subscription). The Washington Post: 16. Retrieved February 10, 2010. 
  13. ^ "Quai des Orfevres Review". Variety. 1947. Retrieved August 4, 2010. 
  14. ^ "The Edgar Awards Database (search "Clouzot")". TheEdgars.com. Retrieved March 11, 2010. 
  15. ^ Lloyd 2007, p. 63
  16. ^ "Quai des Orfèvres". Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment, Inc. Retrieved March 11, 2010. 
  17. ^ Eder, Bruce. "Quai des Orfevres [Criterion Collection]: Overview". Allmovie. Retrieved March 11, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Optimum Releasing: Quai des Orfevres". Allmovie. Retrieved March 11, 2010. 
  19. ^ Quai des Orfèvres (1947) - The Criterion Collection

References[edit]

External links[edit]