1957. France. Henri-Georges Clouzot. 125 min.
Friday, December 16, 2011, 4:30 p.m.
Theater 1 (The Roy and Niuta Titus Theater 1), T1
1957. France. Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot. Screenplay by Clouzot, Jérôme Géronimi. With Curd Jürgens, Peter Ustinov, Sam Jaffe, Otto E. Hasse, Véra Clouzot. A Cold War thriller set in a dilapidated lunatic asylum, Les Espions has an air of sickly menace that bears traces of Clouzot’s four-year convalescence at a TB sanatorium in the 1930s, and the darkly expressionist sensibility he cultivated while apprenticing at Berlin’s legendary UFA studios (the film’s title recalls Fritz Lang’s 1928 Spione). The film is a borderline parody of the cloak-and-dagger genre, freely adapted from Egon Hostovsky’s The Midnight Agent, a novel championed by Graham Greene that played on the murky history of World War II double agent Otto John. Savagely dismissed by the French New Wave, Les Espions nonetheless has its pleasures and characteristic preoccupations, including its ever-shifting loyalties and clever turns of the screw; its fixation on peering and prying; and its pervasive sense of impotent fear, madness, and impending atomic doom. Courtesy Tamasa Distribution. 125 min.