Le Corbeau

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A mysterious writer of poison-pen letters, known only as Le Corbeau (the Raven), plagues a provincial French town, exposing the collective suspicion and rancor seething beneath the community’s calm surface. Made during the Nazi occupation of France, this film by Henri-Georges Clouzot was attacked by the right-wing Vichy regime, the left-wing Resistance press, and the Catholic Church, and was banned after the country’s liberation. But some—including Jean Cocteau and Jean-Paul Sartre—recognized the powerful subtext to Clouzot’s anti-informant, anti-Gestapo fable and worked to rehabilitate his directorial reputation after the war. Le Corbeau brilliantly captures the spirit of paranoid pettiness and self-loathing that turns an occupied French town into a twentieth-century Salem.

Picture 8/10

Criterion brings Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Le corbeau back into the collection with an all-new Blu-ray featuring a new high-definition presentation sourced from a recent 4K restoration performed by StudioCanal. The film is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on a dual-layer disc with a 1080/24hz encode.

I’m unsure as to how I came to the belief, but I had been under misconception that the negatives for this film had been lost, leading me to adjust my expectations for this release accordingly. They hadn't, and I mention this because I was absolutely taken aback by how remarkable this new presentation looks, and my lowered expectations could be playing into that. Even then it's hard to deny this new restoration, that was most assuredly sourced from the 35mm original negative (for the most part at any rate), is a knockout, meticulously scrubbed of just about all damage and debris without taking away from the crisp image that the negative affords. Though some shots come out looking a bit fuzzy, which almost certainly comes down to the original photography, the presentation as a whole is strikingly sharp and clean, and it effortlessly renders those finer details from the slight textures of fabrics to the tighter patterns. Close-ups look remarkable but even many of the film's long shots, including those in darker settings, manage to render out an incredible amount of detail. Contrast looks exceptional with the blending within the grays looking clean and smooth. Shadows also look great, showing superb range in the darker grays coming out of the purer blacks, delivering some incredible depth to the image. Film grain has also been wonderfully captured and Criterion's encode does a superb job in delivering it.

While the restoration has removed most imperfections some minor marks do remain, limited mostly to small bits of debris and a few faint scratches, all of which are very easy to overlook. Transitions between scenes can have a slightly dupier look, which is expected, but even then they're significantly cleaner than I would have expected. All around it looks fantastic and also offers an incredible improvement over Criterion's previous fuzzy looking DVD.

Audio 6/10

The monaural audio, presented here in lossless single-channel PCM, also comes out sounding better. There is more depth present, voices and what music there is showing a wider level of range than the DVD ever did. Fidelity is excellent and the hollowness that was present on the old DVD is now gone. There is some noticeable background noise but that can be expected, and I’d rather have that if the alternative is to filter and flatten everything out. A really nice improvement over that old track.

Extras 3/10

Criterion ports over all of the disc content from their previous DVD edition. First up is the same 21-minute interview from 2002 featuring filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier, who had previously worked with Clouzot. Tavernier focuses on the controversial history of the anti-informant film, which had been attacked by critics both on the right and left of the aisle, and the trouble Clouzot faced after the liberation of France, his willingness to make films under the Germans being frowned upon, to say the least. Tavernier also gets into the history of the French film industry during the occupation, even bringing up the German film company Continental Films, who had a knack to getting around German censors and allowing filmmakers like Clouzot more freedom.

It’s still a fine inclusion, as is the 8-minutes' worth of excerpts from the 1975 documentary The Story of French Cinema by Those Who Made It. The excerpts in question focus on the period of French cinema during the occupation and it features interviews with Charles Spaak, Jean Aurenche, Pierre Bost, Claude Autant-Lara, Andre Paulve, Christan-Jaque, and Pierre Chenal, all recalling this period and working under Continental Films and its head, Alfred Greven. Clouzot also pops in to talk about Le corbeau, the film ultimately getting him fired due to it being vehemently against anonymous informing.

The disc then closes with the same trailer featured on the DVD (still appearing to be in standard-definition), and the included insert  features the same essay on the film by Alan Williams. Sadly, one of the more interesting inclusions to be found in the DVD’s booklet, two 1947 articles on the film from the French newspaper L’Intransigeant, have been excised. The first article featured Henri Jeanson defending Clouzot and his film from the critics who condemned the filmmaker for working under the Nazis, pointing out its clear message that went against Nazi ideals. The second article was a rebuttal written by Joseph Kessel, who clearly doesn’t care what Clouzot’s intentions were and thinks the director was clearly in the wrong. The two articles were excellent inclusions that showcased how the film and Clouzot had so clearly divided many following the war, and the fact they’re not included here (not even as a text gallery on the disc) is an incredible shame.

All around the features are fine but they only scrape the surface of the film. It’s an incredible shame Criterion didn’t take the opportunity to expand on any of this material around the film and its history.


The supplements are still incredibly underwhelming but this release's sharp high-definition presentation makes it well worth picking up.

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Year: 1943
Time: 91 min.
Series: The Criterion Collection
Edition #: 227
Licensor: Studio Canal
Release Date: September 20 2022
MSRP: $39.95
1 Disc | BD-50
1.37:1 ratio
French 1.0 PCM Mono
Subtitles: English
Region A
 Interview with filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier   Excerpts from The Story of French Cinema by Those Who Made It: Grand Illusions 1939 – 1942, a 1975 documentary featuring Henri-Georges Clouzot   Trailer   An essay by film scholar Alan Williams