This white-knuckle masterpiece wrings every last drop of tension from its ingeniously simple premise. Opening in a fetid South American town where tough, unshaven men drink and fight until their next job, Clouzot’s film simmers with slow-building tension until the ratchet is dialled up to breaking point as four of those men take on a potentially suicidal assignment – driving trucks loaded with explosive nitroglycerin over a treacherous mountain path. When every bump could blow them to the heavens, the men’s nerve is tested to the limit, as is the audience’s. Christopher Nolan admitted studying the film for his recent war thriller Dunkirk, and it’s clear why: this is among the most purely suspenseful, gripping thrillers ever made. This is the new 4K restoration of the original French theatrical cut that premiered at Cannes Classics earlier this year.
Chicago Reader review:
In Henri-Georges Clouzot's 1953 suspense classic, four out-of-work Europeans (Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Folco Lulli, Peter Van Eyck), trapped in a squalid South American village that's exploited by a U.S. oil company, agree to drive two truckloads of nitroglycerine over 300 miles of primitive roads in exchange for $2,000 each—if they survive. When this existentialist shocker opened in the U.S., 43 minutes had been hacked away, but the gripping adventure elements left intact were still enough to turn the film into a hit. (This restored and at least semicomplete version of the film, 148 minutes long, was released in the early 90s.) A significant influence on Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, this grueling pile driver of a movie will keep you on the edge of your seat, though it reeks of French 50s attitude, which includes misogyny, snobbishness, and borderline racism. It's also clearly a love story between two men (Montand and Vanel).
Here (and above) is the trailer.
No2: The Parallax View (Pakula, 1974): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 5.50pm
This 35mm screening, which is also being shown on November 22nd, is part of the Alan Pakula Paranoia Trilogy season at BFI Southbank. Full details here.
Time Out review:
'A thriller about a journalist, alerted to the mysterious deaths of witnesses to the assassination of a presidential candidate, who embarks on an investigation that reveals a nebulous conspiracy of gigantic and all-embracing scope. It sounds familiar, and refers to or overlaps a good handful of similar films, but is most relevantly tied to Klute. Where Klute was an exploration of claustrophobic anxiety, The Parallax View is inexorably agoraphobic. Its visual organisation is stunning as the journalist (Beatty) is drawn into an increasingly nightmarish world characterised by impenetrably opaque structures, a screen whited out from time to time, or meshed over with visually deceptive patterns. It is some indication of the area the film explores that in place of the self-revealing session with the analyst in Klute, The Parallax View presents us with the more insecurity-inducing questionnaire used by the mysterious Parallax Corporation for personality-testing prospective employees. Excellent performances; fascinating film.'
Here (and above) is the original trailer.