Diabolique (1955)



For this film, I enjoyed some vegetable Lo Mein from a spot in the East Village called Baji Baji, which for it’s size, is decorated with delightful paintings on one wall and notes from loyal patrons on the other. It was delicious, affordable & I paired it with a glass of rose. Support your local businesses!

Noirvember Film Series #4:

Diabolique” (1955), originally titled “Les Diaboliques” meaning “The Devils” or “The Fiends,” is a French noir/crime/horror directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot centered on a boarding school run by a disreputable figure, Michel Delassalle (Paul Meurisse). He has a loving, but meek wife (Véra Clouzot) who works in the classroom and looks the other way as he egregiously flaunts his mistress (Simone Signoret).

Based on the 1952 novel “She Who Was No More” (Celle qui n’était plus) by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, the plot focuses on Mademoiselle Christina Delassalle (Clouzot) and her husbands lover, Nicole Horner (Signoret), as they conspire to murder the man in the middle. It begins as a psychological thriller, liken to Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” (1866), the film explores the theory that to murder is one thing; to live with it is something else. Christina fights against her fear of getting caught and her all-consuming guilt. However, the story begins to dip into a horror when the abandoned body goes missing, and the two women find themselves wondering if their victim has come back to haunt them.

“Diabolique” is characterized by cynical heroes, stark lighting, and intricate plots, solidifying it as a noir crime drama that embodies a Hitchockian tone. In fact, esteemed horror filmmaker, Alfred Hitchcock, cites this film as having inspired aspects of his famous work, “Psycho” (1960), which was based off the 1959 novel by Richard Albert Bloch, who has called “Diabolique” his favorite horror film of all-time. Many of the film’s best moments are driven through expert cinematography by Armand Thirard.

The film begins at a isolated boarding school in Saint-Cloud, Hauts-de-Seine, on the outskirts of Paris, which is run by the aforementioned cold and tyrannical schoolmaster Michel Delassalle. His wife who actually owns the grounds, is constantly in a state of distress. She has a heart condition that continues to worsen as her husbands abusive behavior extends beyond her, punishing the children too harshly and parading his mistress around the site. However, things take a turn when his mistress confides in her and expresses her own disdain for his behavior. Together, they devise a plan to exterminate the hated man.

Brilliantly, “Diabolique” does not heed our expectations. It meanders in its slow pace halfway through the film, but then begins to unravel in strange and unforeseen ways. Teetering between a psychological thriller, a supernatural horror, and a murder mystery classic, the film ebbs and flows between genres and unveils itself for what it truly is in the final five minutes. The film is shrouded in mystery and intrigue. As Roger Ebert put it, “The most disturbing elements of the movie are implied, not seen.”

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