Among all René Clément 's movies dealing with WW2 ("jeux interdits" "la père tranquille" "Paris br?le-t-il?" ...) "les maudits" is simply the best.It might possibly be also Clement's best and I hope many comments will join mine soon.Nazis are escaping from Germany in 1945 now that the writing's on the wall.They will cross the sea in a submarine and take refuge in South America .Among them ,a general , a manufacturer and his wife (who's the general's lover),a scientist and his daughter,a French collaborator,a "Dritte Reich " die-hard and his minion .The woman is injured and they have no doctor.So,in Royan,they kidnap Guilbert who will be forced to share their desperate odyssey.Never maybe René Clément's direction has been so impressive:he uses with stunning results the enclosed atmosphere ,where the characters are prisoners:the audience like them is panting for breath.When the doctor enters the place ,the cinematography suggests a descent into hell.This submarine is really Hell's anteroom.Heightened sensibilities ,suppressed hatred,and reciprocal contempt show because of an unbearable lack of privacy .Guilbert ,the doctor (Vidal) understands that ,because he's not one of "them" ,his days are numbered ,and he's got to play cat and mouse to survive.So strong is the supporting cast that they overshadow the hero (Henri Vidal was a limited actor though).The strange homosexual couple ,Himmler's former henchman (Jo Dest) and his lover (Michel Auclair who gives the most fascinating performance of the whole movie;René Clément met him when he filmed "la Belle et le Bete" with Cocteau ,Auclair played la Belle's brother)are much more than secondary characters.It even includes SM (the nazi whips his minion).When we leave the submarine-coffin,all we find is the dark waters of an empty sea.And when we call at a harbor in South Africa,we find ourselves in Marcel Dalio's (who was part of "Casablanca" supporting cast!)office,the Venitian blinds of which are carefully lowered;or -in a scene so strong that it rivals the best of Hitchcock-,in the darkness of a coffee warehouse.This is a must-see movie,which was also remarkable for another reason:everyone speaks his language ,which was not that much obvious at the time,and it adds another suspenseful plus:the hero must not show he understands German.Henri Jeanson whose sense of humor is intact despite this thoroughly desperate noir story wrote astounding lines:"it looks like Noah's Ark,says the general at the beginning of the film,now all we need is the deluge".He will not be disappointed.You will not either if you try this Clément overlooked gem.
Les maudits is directed by René Clément who also co-writes with Victor Alexandrov, Henri Jeanson, Jacques Rémy and Jacques Companéez. It stars Marcel Dalio, Henri Vidal, Florence Marly, Fosco Giachetti, Paul Bernard, Jo Dest, Michel Auclair and Anne Campion.It's the last days of World War II and a submarine full of Nazi's and fellow collaborators head off from Oslo bound for South America. Hoping to evade capture by the Allies, their plans are stalled when a depth- charge attack injures one of the lady passengers causing them to stop off in France to kidnap a doctor. Once on board the doctor realises the gravity of his situation and uses his medical knowledge to spread slow- burn fret throughout the submarine; just as news of the armistice breaks?A lesson in claustrophobic suspense and slow-burn psychological edginess, Les maudits riff's on the rats leaving a sinking ship with considerable success. It's a hot-bed of unsavoury characters, where political sin hangs heavy in the scratchy black and white atmosphere. Clément inserts the tension deftly whilst also garnering rich performances from the multilingual ensemble of actors. It all builds to a quite terrific ending that closes down the picture on suitably intelligent note. It's a hard film to pin down but if you get the chance don't hesitate to view it. 8/10
The history of French cinema, for better or worse, is largely tethered to two boad-sweeping movements; the Poetic Realism movement and the Nouvelle Vogue. Both periods expanded the limitations of film technique while constantly calling into question grammar and form. Populated with names like Godard, Varda, Renoir and Carne, these movement most importantly laid the foundation for auteur theory (the notion that a film is a product of the director like a novella to an author).Rene Clement is not a member of either of these movements. Considered too young for the poetic realism and too old for the French New Wave, Clement was dismissed by Francois Truffaut as part of the Cinema du papa (Your dad's cinema); a blanket term for French filmmakers who try to mimic the bloated spectacle of Hollywood. Yet anyone who gives Forbidden Games (1952) or Purple Noon (1960) a chance can clearly see a talented filmmaker with a flair for docudrama and a taste for good-old-fashioned storytelling.Now granted The Damned does not reach the feverish heights of Purple Noon but it nevertheless oozes with the spirit of Americanized suspense while telling a story that's uniquely French. Set during the last months of the Third Reich, a group of Nazis and Nazi sympathizers have planned a daring escape from Europe via U-boat. Things however hit a snag after a close encounter with a Allied ship, forcing the boat to dock and kidnap a French doctor (Vidal). The doctor then bares witness to the escalating fanaticism of the U-boat's crew and occupants as they come to terms with the war ending.Filled with potboiler intrigue, calculating villains and frenetic action, The Damned brings to mind Hitchcock's slim but suspenseful war-period films like Lifeboat (1944) and Foreign Correspondent (1940). Yet unlike those films which played on the uncertainty of a wartime audience, The Damned has a foreboding sense of ennui. The narration provided by Henri Vidal puts you into the mind of the Doctor and his multiple attempts to escape from the clutches of the U-boat's occupants, which include fanatical SS Officer Forster (Dest), Wehrmacht General Von Hauser (Kronefeld), Italian industrialist Garosi (Giachetti) and his wife (Marly). His main motive is concentrated to that of sheer survival. He knows full well that the moment the wife's injuries are cared for, he's a dead man, so he cleverly uses any excuse to stay on as the resident doctor until better options arrive.Yet while the doctor may be absolved in his complicity to the Nazi cause, the film shades in the rest of the characters in sometimes quixotic ways. By virtue of being connected to the virginal Ingrid (Campion), Scandinavian physicist Eriksen (Hector) is absolved of his motivation to sell nuclear secrets to the highest bidder. The majority of the Nazi U-boat crew are seen in a positive and simplistic light; a cadre of men just wanting to go home. Meanwhile Florence Marly's Hilde is savaged by the events of the story, not merely because she's a sympathizer but because she is also the mistress to the General. Paul Bernard plays Couturier a French newspaper editor (and the only representative of Vichy France) who is quietly kept under the rug until his final curtain call. One can't help but think that if Couturier's death wasn't so senseless, Clement was trying to build a story around justifying culpability.Regardless, The Damned is still a brilliantly shot film full of nail-biting suspense and claustrophobic mis en scene. Those who saw Das Boot (1981) or Run Silent, Run Deep (1956) will no doubt see similar visual cues which, I won't go far enough to say were inspired by The Damned but are strongly reminiscent of it. Rene Clement may not be one of the names immediately conjured up when thinking of French filmmakers but with quality films under his belt, he certainly doesn't deserve the Cinema du papa moniker.
This is director René Clément's third full-length film and already we are aware that he is a great 'film technician' with an eye for detail.It takes place in a German U-471, a wooden replica of which Clément had built at the Victorine studios. His production designer, Paul Bertrand, has done a wonderful job in recreating the interior and the tracking shots through the vessel by Henri Alekan are impressive. Apparently Clément installed a tilting mechanism to reproduce as much as possible the movements of the submarine.Essentially dealing with the wages of political sin, the characters almost without exception are a thoroughly unsavoury and ignoble bunch with no redeeming features which naturally makes them horribly fascinating. The doctor who is brought on board at gunpoint to aid one of the passengers is played by Henri Vidal. His character is decent and therefore infinitely less interesting! I have no doubt that Paul Bernard, Jo Dest and Florence Marly enjoyed their roles immensely. Marcel Dalio gets top billing here and plays 'une crapule' with his usual aplomb.The film is not without its weaknesses. The punch-ups on board are far from convincing and the various deaths of the protagonists are handled in a very cold, clinical manner.Clément's powerful first feature 'La Bataille du Rail' was filmed in a semi-documentary style whilst this one seems to fall between two stools, those of fact and fiction, with varying results.This director made fifteen films in twenty-five years a few of which are undisputed masterpieces. 'Les Maudits' is alas not one of them but still very watchable. It did in fact beat off some pretty stiff competition to win Best Film at Cannes. Devotees of 'Psycho' please note the scene where a murdered man pulls down the curtain rail from the rod!
I give this film five stars although I would rather have given it one star, because of the other reviews posted here. I cannot say for sure that this is René Clement's weakest film but it is by far not his best and it is the weakest I can remember to have seen. It contains the typical Nazi stereotypes that were maybe true, I don't know, but nevertheless boring. Had the Nazis all have been such idiots they could hardly have lasted six years in a war against practically the whole world. True, they were first supported by the west to scare off the Bolsheviks but later on they were pretty much alone against the whole world. When it came out maybe there were not that many films about Nazi stereotypes and so it must have seemed better then? but I review the film from the impact it could have to day and in that lite it is at best vaguely interesting but on no account whatsoever comparable with Les yeux interdit, for example. I just went through the list of Clements films and of the ones I've seen, this is indeed his weakest.