Yesterday evening I watched Les Diaboliques (1955), directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, starring Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot and Paul Meurisse, on TV5 MONDE.
Les Diaboliques (55')
Les Diaboliques is set in a boys boarding school, where two teachers; one the timid rich wife (and co-school principle), Christina Delassalle (Véra Clouzot) of the school Principle, Michel Delassalle (Paul Meurisse), and the other, his tough mistress Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret); plot to get rid of a common ruthless enemy they both fear, Michel Delassalle, who forcefully keeps them both under his thumb.
Les Diaboliques (55') Véra Clouzot & Simone Signoret
An interesting piece of film noir and dark comedy ensues. When the school has a three day break, most schoolboys go home for the holidays. Christina and Nicole, take a trip down to Nicole’s place, carrying along an enormous empty wicker woven basket trunk. To confirm their alibi, as they plan to put their conspiracy into action, Nicole has a couple of tenants residing on the above floor. At night time the scheme of things start taking shape, Christina unwillingly calls and lures her husband to Nicole’s under the pretence that she desires a divorce, unable to accept his violent treatment of her, and his philandering ways. And since the school actually belongs to Christina, she would like to have it back. Being the egoistical shallow male, who won’t easily let her go, Michel is too ashamed to admit his wife had the strength to leave him, and he has to run behind her. Thus, luckily for the two female conspirators, he leaves the school secretly, without anyone’s knowledge. And since Christina has taken the car, he has to take the train.
As he come to Nicole’s house, Nicole goes upstairs, having added a sleeping dose into an alcohol bottle and left it for Michel. The upstairs neighbours are listening to an entertainment channel on the radio, and once Nicole heads there, the trio listen to the show on full volume. Thus Michel’s entry below is unheard by the upstairs neighbours. Michel comes and threatens his nervous wife, who is in two minds about carrying out this task. Eventually, getting tired of this charade, of to kill or not kill, Christina lets her husband drink a few glasses of alcohol, which gets him drowsy enough to fall asleep. Meanwhile Nicole comes back, fills the bathtub, the two women carry their shared lover and tormentor, and drown him in the tub.
Next morning he’s wrapped in a massive table cloth, stuffed into the wicker woven trunk, and the trio head back to the boarding school. They reach there by night-time, and dump the body into the musty swimming pool.
Les Diaboliques (55') pics
A few days later, the body not having surfaced,  the already at nerves end, Christina, with a heart condition, starts to worry. Soon under false pretence, of trying to locate Nicole’s keys; that supposedly accidentally fall into pool, and a boy who dives trying to find it, instead comes up with a cigarette lighter belonging to Michel; the swimming pool is pumped out. To Christina and Nicole’s horror, the pool is empty, not even a sign of the body. What happened to it? Who could have moved it? Why?

What follows, is both, a horrific and comical turn of events, at the same time. Soon the suit Michel was dressed in is dry-cleaned and returned to the hostel, the naked body of a man fitting Michel’s description is found in the River Seine, in Paris. A private investigator, who is a retired police officer, takes the case to locate where the philandering husband of the naïve Christina is, against her wishes. A school boy supposedly gets punished by Michel for breaking a window. It keeps getting more are more baffling and scary, along the way, with non-stop suspense and an ironical twisted ending, where the culprit becomes the victim. Not one dull moment. An Excellent piece of Film-noir by film director Henri-Georges Clouzot, which keeps us at the edge of our seats, and, till close to the end, we never tend to guess what is actually happening.
Les Diaboliques (55') The Pool
Simone Signoret is excellent, as always, as the tough cookie, who never betrays an ounce of emotion, and only starts to show cracks of fear towards the end.
Véra Clouzot (wife of film director Henri-Georges Clouzot, in real life) as Christina Delassalle, the rich lady, the co-school principle, is superb as the nervous, naïve wife of a cruel husband. She reminded me of Joan Fontaine’s nervous nameless character, from Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940). In fact this suspenseful thriller feels very Hitchcockian till the end.
The rest of the cast too are a perfect fit in their respective roles.
Excellent!! A Must Watch, for any film buff, and fans of Film Noir. 10/10

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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