Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Brigitte Bardot, Paul
Meurisse, Charles Vanel, Sami Frey, Marie-Jose Nat
Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Audio: PCM Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.66:1
Features: See Review
Length: 128 Minutes
Release Date: February 12, 2019
“You have no heart. One must be capable of love to judge love.”
If there’s one thing that can be said about Henri-Georges Clouzot, he was certainly one of the most versatile filmmakers to ever emerge from French cinema. Though heavily renowned as France’s equivalent to Hitchcock, directing such grand suspense enterprises as The Wages of Fear and (especially) Diabolique, Clouzot also had a knack for crafting terrific dramatic work. Such was the case with his 1960 release, La Verite.
Using a courtroom trial as the backdrop for the unfolding of a doomed love affair, Clouzot manages to make a potent commentary on how society is quick to judge the actions of individuals they don’t even know a fraction of. Dominique (Brigitte Bardot) is a perfect example of such a person. She is flirtatious and promiscuous on the surface, making her very easy for a moralistic society to completely write off.
The film begins with Dominique being tried for the alleged murder of her lover, aspiring music composer Gilbert (Sami Frey). During the course of the trial, we are presented flashbacks of pivotal moments during their affair that will no doubt lead to her current position. What will ultimately be revealed is whether the lover’s murder was premeditated or simply a crime of passion.
And the film very much succeeds in opening the viewer’s eye to specifics regarding a character we, again like those in a moralistic society, we would be quickly to judge or write off. Because Dominique exhibits signs of behavior that one would be quick to be deemed as “slutty”, it would be easy for many people to look down on her. But Clouzot reminds us that we know absolutely nothing about what we see at face value until the facts are revealed in a way that only the power of cinema can provide.
We learn that Gilbert was the object of affection for Dominique’s sister, Annie (Marie-Jose Nat). And Dominique, never one to turn down an opportunity to engage in flirtation, developed an interest in him as well. And though it may have been a matter of winning a competition, much to Dominique’s surprise…she found herself legitimately in love with him.
Eventually, various elements play vital roles in destroying the relationship, such as jealously, mistrust and physical abuse. Added to this is that of Dominique’s mental state, which is presented as quite fragile at the beginning of the story (as she was on the brink of death before finding love). And that element becomes key in determining what led to the murder, as it’s a possibility that it was a suicide attempt that had gone awry.
I had long been aware of Brigitte Bardot’s reputation as one of the all-time great sultry sirens of cinema, and she certainly lives up to it here (she damn near resembles supermodel Kate Upton to a tee). But she also happens to deliver a most compelling performance. In addition to being incredibly sexy, she does capture the emotional and fragile mental state of her character in perfect form, especially in the film’s concluding moments.
La Verite is yet another marvelous piece of work in the directorial career of Henri-Georges Clouzot. It’s a gripping story that unfolds in a most riveting fashion, and works well as both a courtroom drama and a depiction of a truly torrid love affair.
Criterion stuns yet again with another outstanding 4K presentation, which was done courtesy of Sony Pictures along with The Film Foundation and RT Features. The Black and White picture is consistently rich and alive with immense detail for every single frame of the film. It also enhances the beauty of the already vivacious Ms. Bardot!
The PCM mono mix is effective in its one primary function, that of dialogue delivery. However, there are a few scenes consisting of crowd noise and music delivery that play out terrifically, as well.
Included on this Criterion Blu-ray are three grand features; an hour-long documentary titled “Le Scandale Clouzot”, which profiles the career of the acclaimed filmmaker. There’s also an archived interview with Clouzot from 1960 as well as an archived interview with Brigitte Bardot from 1982.
Also included is an insert featuring an essay by film scholar Ginette Vincendeau.
La Verite is a late career triumph for Henri-Georges Clouzot. It also marked something of a revelation for Brigitte Bardot, who proved she had substance to go along with her one of a kind style. Criterion’s Blu-ray release is yet another fantastic release from the studio!