Henri-Georges Clouzot: Le salaire de la peur (1953)
In a decrepit South American village, men are hired to transport an urgent nitroglycerine shipment without the equipment that would make it safe.
Whoever it may be to rightly claim that he invented the action thriller genre (Méliès, I suppose), Henri-Georges Clouzot’s “Le salaire de la peur” is an indispensable milestone on the exciting route to the best films of that kind in the 70’s, 80’s and nowadays. In its tenseness, as symbolized by the danger of explosion of the lorries’ loads, it has hardly been surpassed.
The plot is perfectly worked out from start to end, the leading players act in some of their best parts ever, the (almost) absence of music supports the brutal realism and the consequent choice of authentic outdoor settings contributed a lot to the film’s deserved success. Historically, it ranges between neorealismo and nouvelle vague, and yet it is its pure action and suspense that make it worth watching.
Clouzot’s wife Véra (also well-known from his “Les diaboliques”) plays to the “most breathtaking angles” gallery when she bows down to scrub the floor of Dario Moreno’s gin joint. It’s a man’s world after all and there are male perspectives on human survival only. Well, it’s existentialism, mates. Altogether, the black and white photography is gripping. The gun scene between Lulli and Vanel is one of the best montages in film history, and there is more excellent editing in “Salaire” (including the finale) that completely fits the hot atmosphere. read more