Monday, December 19, 2011

Before Irréversible, There Was Henri-Georges Clouzot

It’s good news that MoMA will be showing a series of films by Henri-Georges Clouzot between now and Christmas. Long before today’s vogue for “extremity,” Clouzot made films that fiercely challenged audiences’ moral and emotional sensibilities, creating some of the most admirable achievements in French cinema. If, like me, you wish there were more movies like  “Enter the Void,” or “L’Enfant,” ”Demonlover” or “Ma Mère,” then this is a retrospective for you.
None of those movies, incidentally, are Clouzot’s. They’ve come up in conversation among critics on large number of films from France made in the 21st century that sometimes resemble snuff. Extreme libertinism abounds in the oeuvres of Catherine Breillat and Philippe Grandrieux. François Ozon’s work frankly portrays genital mutilation and cannibalism. Gaspard Noé’s films have featured a nine-minute rape scene and a vagina cam (earning John Waters‘ ardent respect). In an essay in Artforum, James Quandt pulled together the trends toward extreme violence with the term “The New French Extremity,” disapprovingly attributing their hardcore sensibilities to something shallow and weak. Granted, these films aren’t for everybody, though in their exploration of the darker facets of the human nature, they owe an awful lot to Clouzot.

Read the full post on Art Fag City.

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