Le Corbeau

(1943)
   Film. Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot for the Nazi-operated production company, Continental Films, Le Corbeau is, perhaps surprisingly, an overtly anti-Occupation film. The film, best classified as a thriller, is the story of a small town plunged into chaos by an unknown citizen who writes poison-pen letters and signs them "Le Corbeau" or "The Raven." The principal target of the anonymous letter writer is the town doctor, Rémy Germain (Pierre Fresnay), who is accused in the letters of adultery, performing abortions (illegal under the Nazi Occupation), selling drugs, and cavorting with Denise (Ginette Leclerc), a woman of questionable reputation. During the course of the film, the letters begin to denounce other members of the town, ultimately provoking a suicide and portending other equally dark consequences. As a result, the German authorities intervene and, with the help of the local psychiatrist, Michel Vorzay (Pierre Larquey), attempt to identify the writer of the letters. Ultimately, it is discovered that Vorzay is himself the author of the letters.
   The film is both timeless and firmly rooted in its historical moment. The writing of anonymous letters to denounce friends and neighbors was common practice during the Occupation, and the motives of the letter writers were very often less than pure. The film openly critiques the practice, questions the motives of those who write such letters, but perhaps more important, points to the hypocrisy of a society that regards such a practice as perfectly acceptable as long as those targeted are of questionable reputation. The film also palpably conveys what it means to live in a society gripped by fear and kept in check by the threat of harm and violence.
   The timeless element of the film is in its critique of human and social behavior in general. The village in the film is a community where the veneer of respectability counts for far more than real humanity; where people are judged by how they dress, the way they speak, or their social backgrounds; where individual ambitions count for more than community or humanity. No one in the film is blameless. Nearly all the characters are flawed. However, those who appear—on the surface—to be worthy of condemnation ultimately prove less corrupt and tainted than the society that stands in judgment of them.
   The film features consistently strong performances by its cast. It is considered a classic for its ability to convey this moral ambiguity of the human condition in such nuanced terms. Also highly noteworthy is the use of the thriller genre to explore complex social questions, which has led the film to be regarded as one of the greatest thrillers ever made. It is also recognized for its use of film noir elements, including the symbolically charged use of light and dark, and the often near-expressionistic representations of the dark side of human reality.

Historical Dictionary of French Cinema. . 2007.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • corbeau — [ kɔrbo ] n. m. • corbiaus XIIe; dér. en ellus de l a. fr. corp; lat. corvus 1 ♦ Oiseau d Europe au plumage noir ou gris (passériformes), omnivore, criard et souvent agressif. Les diverses espèces de corbeaux (⇒ choucas, corneille, freux) forment …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Corbeau dans la culture — Sous article d un taxon biologique The Raven, Illustration …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Corbeau (Oiseau) — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Corbeau. Nom vernaculaire ou nom normalisé ambigu : Le terme « Corbeau » s applique, en français, à plusieurs taxons distincts …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Corbeau Freux — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Freux …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Corbeau freu — Corbeau freux Pour les articles homonymes, voir Freux …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Corbeau (Constellation) — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Corbeau. Corbeau …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Corbeau De Tasmanie — Corbeau de Tasmanie …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Corbeau De Torres — Corbeau de Torres …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Corbeau Des Mers — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Corbeau. Corbeau des mers …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Corbeau Du Désert — Corbeau du désert …   Wikipédia en Français

  • corbeau — Corbeau, com. Qu on dit aussi Corbin, c est une espece d oiseau de noir pennage assez cogneu, Coruus. Corbeau aussi en fait de bastimens, est une grosse pierre de taille, saillant de la muraille pour soustenir les trefs, ou poultres par les bouts …   Thresor de la langue françoyse

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