Henri-George Clouzot
© La Cinémathèque française – Succession Clouzot

Henri-George Clouzot

The truth is that every time you start a film, you feel like you are doing something new and it is only through reading the reviews, listening to the opinions of your friends, that you realize you have done the same thing again.

From 1942 to 1968, Henri-George Clouzot used his films to explore the human soul. His films, whether thrillers, cop dramas or black comedies, have left an indelible mark on French cinema.

Updated on 14/03/2019

2 min

After being an assistant and a screenwriter, Henri-George Clouzot began working as a director in 1931 with the short film The Batignolle Terror (“La Terreur des Batignolles”). It wasn't until 1942 that he returned to the camera to direct his first feature film, The Murderer lives at Number 21 (“L’Assassin habite au 21”). It was an immediate success.

Ten feature films followed, some described as masterpieces – The Raven (“Le Corbeau”) (1943), Quai des Orfèvres (1947), The Wages of Fear (“Le Salaire de la peur“) (1952), The Truth (“La Vérité “) (1960) and a documentary, The Mystery of Picasso (“Le mystère Picasso") (1956):.

He is now considered one of the giants of French cinema. The Cinémathèque Française, in Paris, paid tribute to him through an exhibit on his work from November 2017 to July 2018, on the occasion of 40th anniversary of his death.

Cécile Aubry, the lead actress of Manon (1949), said of Clouzot, “He would bend things, sets and actors, to his will.” Described as a difficult and misanthropic director, Clouzot seemed fascinated by the darkness of the human soul, a fact which earned him the nickname "the French Hitchcock".

However, Clouzot did not see his work this way. To him his films were neither dark nor pessimistic. They simply cast doubt on the border between shadows and light.

The themes of absurdity, lies and manipulation, however, recur throughout his films, as if he were seeking a way to escape the anxieties that ate away at him: “We cut ourselves into little pieces, giving ourselves bit by bit to each character. “

A prominent figure in French cinema, Henri-George Clouzot said of his films that he did not consider any of them to have succeeded: “That’s why I never want to watch them again.”

Yet he saw his work praised and awarded on the international level. Among the many prizes he received are Best Director at the Venice Film Festival for Quai des Orfèvres in 1947, a Palm d’Or and a Golden Bear in 1953 for The Wages of Fear – which would be the subject of two American remakes, Violent Road by Howard W. Koch in 1958 and Sorcerer by William Friedkin in 1977 – and Best Director for The Truth at the Mar del Plata International Film Festival (Argentina).


The Murderer Lives at Number 21 (L'assassin habite au 21 ), by Henri-George Clouzot
The Murderer Lives at Number 21 (L'assassin habite au 21 ), by Henri-George Clouzot
  • 1930


    Henri-Georges Clouzot works for Universum Film AG, where he meets Fritz Lang and Josef Sternberg. He will continue to be influenced by German cinema throughout his life, particularly by the expressionist movement.

  • 1942


    Henri-Georges Clouzot produces his first feature, The Murderer lives at Number 21, an adaptation of a Belgian crime novel published in 1939.

  • 1947


    The film Quai des Orfèvres with Louis Jouvet and Bernard Blier earns him his first international award, bestowed at the Venice Biennale.

  • 1953


    The Wages of Fear receives the Grand Prix (the original name for the Palm d’Or) at the Cannes Film Festival.

  • 1968


    Henri-Georges Clouzot films his final movie, La Prisonnière, a thriller about a love triangle between Élisabeth Wiener, Laurent Terzieff and Bernard Fresson.

The Institut français and the director.

Four films by Henri-Georges Clouzot are distributed internationally by the Institut français: The Murderer Lives at Number 21 (“L'assassin habite au 21”, 1942), The Wages of Fear (“Le Salaire de la peur”, 1953), The Fiends (“Les Diaboliques”, 1955) and The Mystery of Picasso (“Le Mystère Picasso”, 1956). Two documentaries about him are also available: The Clouzot Scandal (“Le Scandale Clouzot”), by Pierre-Henri Gibert (2017) and Inferno (“L'Enfer d'Henri-Georges Clouzot”, 2009) by Serge Bromberg.



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