Opening BAM’s retrospective (through March 2), Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1943 second feature, The Raven (Le Corbeau), is as brilliantly nasty as Wages of Fear and Diabolique or indeed anything this misanthropic filmmaker ever did. (It’s also as surprising as his backstage policier Quai des Orfèvres.) Made for a German production company in occupied France, The Raven takes clinical pleasure in detailing a small town’s moral disintegration and morbid sexuality as it is “terrorized” by a writer of anonymous poison-pen letters. Hypocrisy runs rampant—and extended into the movie’s reception. Clouzot, often called the French Hitchcock, is not just a master of suspense but is also most adroit at implicating his audience. (Not for nothing is BAM’s retro subtitled “Murder and Malice.”) This unflattering social portrait, in which all authority is held up to ridicule, was attacked, and briefly banned, as collaborationist after the liberation. As it turns out, the scenario had been written and registered in 1937. Seen today, The Raven seems less an apology for, than an exposé of, occupied France.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 8, 2005