“MANON”— Manon in Israel

“MANON”

After the Great War

Amos Lassen

This cinematic adaptation of Abbe Prévost’s 1731 novel “Manon Lescaut” was directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, the French director lauded for his acclaimed thrillers “The Wages of Fear” and “Les Diaboliques.” It is a classical tragic romance moved to a World War II setting. It follows the travails of Manon (Cécile Aubry), a village girl accused of collaborating with the Nazis and is rescued from imminent execution by a former fighter for the French Resistance, Robert Desgrieux (Michel Auclair). The couple move to Paris, but their relationship becomes stormy as they struggle to survive. They turn to profiteering, prostitution and even murder. They eventually escape to Palestine where they face a treacherous desert crossing. They hope to find the happiness which seems to constantly elude them. Clouzot gives us an astute portrayal of doomed young lovers caught in post-war France and the film swept the jury of the 1949 Venice Film Festival, where it won the Golden Lion award. However, it has been unjustly overshadowed by the director’s suspense films. “Manon” now returns to screens in glorious High Definition and excellent extras.

Clouzot had worked in Nazi-occupied France as a screenwriter and director for the German-owned company Continental Films and, after the liberation of France, he was tried in court for collaborating with the Germans and sentenced to being banned from going on set of any film or from using a film camera for the rest of his life. However, his sentence was later shortened from life to two years, so he was only banned by the French Government from film making until 1947.

Clouzot re-tells the story of ambitious, gold-digging femme fatale Manon Lescaut whose insatiable lust for money destroys her relationship with lover Robert Desgrieux and finally her life. Robert is a French Resistance veteran who rescues Manon from villagers intent on lynching her for collaboration with the Nazis. They quickly relocate to Paris, where they become embroiled in crime.

Clouzot gets extraordinary performances from his cast and particularly from Aubry and Auclair, but also from Serge Regianni as Manon’s dirty brother Leon Lescaut, Gabrielle Dorziat as the bordello madam Mme. Agnès and Héléna Manson as a Normandy peasant, The Gossip. The screenplay by Clouzot and Jean Ferry is subtle and impeccable, and the depiction of the post-war Parisian underworld is vivid. The film was shot in black and white by Armand Thirard, produced by Paul-Edmond Decharme, scored by Paul Misraki, and designed by Max Douy.

Bonus Materials

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original 1.0 mono audio
  • Optional English subtitles
  • Bibliothèque de poche: H.G. Clouzot, an archival documentary from 1970 in which Clouzot talks of his love of literature and the relationship between the page and the screen
  • Woman in the Dunes, a newly filmed video appreciation by film critic Geoff Andrew
  • Image gallery
  • Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork options

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