(director/writer: Henri-Georges Clouzot; screenwriters: Monique Lange/Marcel Moussy; cinematographer: Andréas Winding; editor: Noëlle Balenci; music: Gilbert Amy; cast: Laurent Terzieff(Stanislas Hassler), Elisabeth Wiener (Josée), Bernard Fresson (Gilbert Moreau), Dario Moreno (Sala), Danny Carrel (Maguy), Daniel Riviere (Maurice) Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Robert Dorfmann; AVCO Embassy Pictures; 1969-France/Italy-in French with English subtitles)

“Engaging but perverse romance story.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The last feature made by the under-appreciated French filmmaker Henri-Georges Clouzot(“The Wages of Fear”/”Jenny Lamour”/”Diabolique”) is an engaging but perverse romance story. The neglected film was made because of the insistence of his admirer François Truffaut. Clouzot writes the script with Monique Lange and Marcel Moussy.

Film editor Josée (Elisabeth Wiener) is in an open relationship with her kinetic artist husband Gilbert Moreau (Bernard Fresson) and they tell each other about their extra-marital affairs. But this talk leaves them unhappy.

Josée begins an affair with the loner Stanislas Hassler (Laurent Terzieff), the experimental gallery owner where her hubby exhibits his work. The control freak indulges himself by having women pose in submissive positions and he plays S&M mind-games with his conquests. Josée, when she learns of this, is both upset and turned on.

Clouzot uses this premise to study evil. The result is an uncomfortable look at Clouzot’s perceptions of modernity. Clouzot leaves behind his usual dark thriller territory and shoots for capturing how much the allure of sexual perversions now replaces love as a way for couples to connect.

It’s a beautifully filmed picture and it features a wonderfully rendered final dream scene. It was unfairly passed over by critics at the time, who might have wrongly thought that the old man was merely trying to climb aboard the wave of counter-culture films being released when instead he was showing us the real pain in relationships.