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Criterion Collection: Wages of Fear [Import USA Zone 1]
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Four out-of-work men take the job as long distance lorry drivers transporting nitro-glycerine to a remote oil field in the South American jungle. Rivalry develops between the different drivers which is intensified by the heat and the danger...
A Las Piedras, cittadina dell'America Centrale, quattro avventurieri, due francesi, un italiano e uno scandinavo, accettano di trasportare su due autocarri 900 chili di nitroglicerina a 600 km di distanza, necessari per spegnere un pozzo petrolifero in fiamme. --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.Voir l'ensemble des Descriptions du produit
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Cette édition par contre est loin d'être parfaite. Déjà Criterion ne propose aucun supplément, l'image n'est pas excellente (le film n'est pas récent mais quand même). Et surtout pour ceux qui ne maîtrisent pas l'italien, l'espagnol et l'allemand, il faudra mettre les sous-titres anglais pour comprendre les dialogues avec les étrangers mercenaires du volant; du coup, les dialogues en français seront aussi sous-titrés. Un petit peu gênant donc. Mieux vaut se diriger vers une édition française puisqu'il n'y a rien d'indispensable ici (ce qui est rare pour un DVD criterion).
A noter, l'excellent remake du film réalisé par William Friedkin sous le titre de "Sorcerer".
La piste son est elle aussi loin d'être la meilleure jamais proposée par Criterion, à commencer par des spécifications techniques loin d'être au maximum des capacités du support. Cependant, il faut se souvenir que Le salaire de la peur fut un des premiers BR de l'éditeur, ceci pouvant expliquer cela (et ceci les critiques très positives sur l'image, que je trouve trop élogieuses au vu du résultat, comme c'est le cas aussi pour Les 400 coups).
Quoiqu'il en soit, en pratique, la piste est très limitée, tant pour la musique, étouffée, que les dialogues, le tout pour un rendu très plat. Cependant, la piste est très propre, avec aucun dommage et un souffle très limité.
Image : 6.5/10
Son : 6.5/10
Film : 8/10
Je me sens dupé.
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The corruption, exploitation and innocence, are brought to a boil by a raging inferno and a couple of truck loads of nitroglycerine. Three hundred miles of rugged roads are all that separates these desperadoes from a ticket out of town. Clouzot rolls his audience into the drama with ingenious visual cues, cables stressed to snapping, tobacco blown from its paper. He uses no gimmicks, though, to impose an artificial sense of spectacle. Everything is shown with a taut authenticity. The film never loses its devil-me-care bravado in spite of all its tension and pathos. Clouzot intersperses little milestones of grace, in a prayer or a dance, with images of death. Alternately-- ambivalence, compassion and admiration are elicited for characters pushed beyond human boundaries and endurance.
It resembles Treasure of the Sierra Madre (another excellent film), but caves in to none of its happy endings, higher ideals, saving benedictions. All here is carried out in a quiet desperation as every vestige of hope, purpose, escape are systematically sabotaged. All that is left is the moment, and survival. The scenes on the bridge, the oil pond, the road, are among the most unforgettable in cinema. The characters strive for freedom but are continually confronted with their interdependence and frailty. The director's final gesture, in the face of potential victory, provides a seal of consistency to this sinister, masterful brew. Clouzot delves into motivations, relationships, doubt. He challenges pat assumptions of life and destiny. It is a remarkable and original film, even more so in the context of the conventions imposed on Hollywood films of that era.
The first third of the movie moves inexplicably slowly. I can understand many of the reasons why: the attempt to define the characters, to show their interactions with one another, to depict the quiet desperation of their lives to make it plausible that four men would undertake such an astonishingly dangerous job as hauling nitroglycerin over treacherous jungle and mountain dirt roads. Even granting all that, however, the start is by any standard really, really slow. And I suspect that of the people you encounter who proclaim the film a bore either gave up before getting to the good parts or never recovered from the slow start.
The most suspenseful film ever made? Some people assert that the film has been so overhyped along these lines that it would be impossible for any film to come up to one's expectations. There are two edges to this sword. I am far more impressed that despite being hyped as the most suspenseful film ever made, I was nonetheless utterly on the edge of my seat for most of the final 100 minutes. And if some of the scenes seem somewhat familiar, it is undoubtedly because of the score of films that have plundered this film for their own tension-filled scenes.
I have often thought that Yves Montand was, at his best, one of the more compelling performers of the last half of the twentieth century. He wasn't consistently successful internationally. Sometimes one or two decades would come between some of his greatest triumphs. To illustrate, I think Montand's two greatest film appearances were THE WAGES OF FEAR (1953) and JEAN DE FLORETTE/MANON OF THE SPRING (1986), only thirty-three years apart.
Many viewers are not comfortable with the very ending of the movie and I I have to agree somewhat. Nihilism was very fashionable in the early 1950s in European cinema. The ending, which seems completely unnecessary and not organically connected with the rest of the film, reflects less any inner necessity for a downer ending than the general mood in "serious" films at the time. So, in a sense, one could argue that this movie manages to be one of the great classics of cinema despite a slow beginning and an arbitrarily negativistic ending. Where the film shines is in the utterly riveting journey through the jungle and mountains.
Criterion's recent 2-disc DVD is a great improvement on their previous single-disc version in terms of picture quality and extras, but sadly, the `new and improved' subtitle translation is just as politically correct as the old one, dropping most of the obscenities and all of the racist language that's an important part of the hatred and self-loathing that drives the characters to risk everything for a chance for a ticket out of this backwater South American hellhole (amazingly recreated in the Carmargue in France because Montand refused to film in Fascist Spain). The shoot may have been jinxed by delays, accidents and colossal budget overruns, but damn, it was worth it.
Criterion's restored hi-def transfer of Henri-Georges Clouzot's controversial, visceral and prescient thriller still grabs the viewer by the throat for a breathless, nihilistic ride.
This legendary film of suspense and despair was deemed "evil" by Time magazine during its 1955 US release. Based on the harrowing 1950 book by George Arnaud, it's a cautionary tale of the true blood-toll of oil and greed.
Filmed in 1951 and first shown in France in 1952, "The Wages of fear" (Le Salaire de la peur) is about four European men at the end of their ropes. In a hell-hole of a South American village, these desperate men accept a job from an American oil company to drive two trucks of unstable nitroglycerine along a treacherous mountain route to an oil fire.
Clouzot, who made less than a dozen films including the acclaimed "Les Diaboliques" and "Quai des orfevres" never flinches from his vision. Although the first half may seem a bit unfocused and meandering it is not because we get to know our characters, the squalid S.A. setting and the uncaring, greed-driven, business-as-usual of the American oil company. The movie literally jump starts when the four hapless men hit the road in their two trucks overloaded with nitro. We understand these men and we ride with them and their emotions. Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Peter van Eyck and Antonio Centa are terrific as the frantic, fraught drivers.
There's a lot of post WW II existential angst in this tale and that's not surprising. After all, it is French and the ideas of Camus and Sartre permeate this film as they did the decade in which it was produced.
My only memory of this film was a washed out video tape copy with impossible to read subtitles and later a faded 16mm print in film school.
I've watched this Blu-ray version several times now and it is stunning. It looks like a print that just came from the lab. The black and white is crisp, with a wonderful range of grays -- velvety shadows to burnished silver. And the subtitles are always easy to read and perfectly synched to the spoken French. But more important, the rhythm and meaning of the spare dialogue remains.
This gritty film, devoid of sentimentality, follows men who live in fear. They know death is coming and yet continue with the task at hand until the end. Although my personal philosophy is not that of the drivers, it reminded me to relish the precious moments of life and to live it fully, bravely and in the moment.
This is one in the rather small handful of the greatest films in world cinema. It has never looked better. And it asks questions that are relevant today: How desperate are we in our need for oil? And what is the final price? Highest recommendation.
Superior extras include:
Interviews with assistant director Michel Romanoff, Clouzot biographer Marc Godlin and Yves Montand from 1988). A great documentary on Clouzot's career "The Enlightened Tyrant." "CENSORED," a revealing look at the cuts made for the initial 1955 U.S. release. And "No Exit," an insightful booklet/essay by novelist Dennis Lehane.