Only appropriate that we would reapproach France during these tense times with this film which is, believe it or not, more full of tension than anything I can recall in Hitchcock’s oeuvre.
Yes, The Wages of Fear by director Henri-Georges Clouzot is unlike anything I have ever seen. More or less.
A parallel can be made to the Humphrey Bogart film They Drive by Night, but Le Salaire de la peur is of a different caliber altogether.
Believe it or not, Yves Montand actually out-acts Bogart in this here film.
From the bizarre beginnings, we hardly have any clue where this flick is going.
Where are we? Tegucigalpa? No, not enough oil. Venezuela? Perhaps.
D’où Venons Nous / Que Sommes Nous / Où Allons Nous???
Mexico. A fictional (?) town called Las Piedras. The stones.
Not to be confused with pies (feet).
Indeed, stones play an important part in this film. And so do feet.
But initially we are disoriented by the Eisenstein-like montage reminiscent of ¡Que viva México! A small child with a sombrero and no pants playing with cockroaches.
And as the film gets going we notice the multitude of languages. Spanish, French, German (?), Italian…maybe Dutch?
The Dutchman in question is played by German actor Peter van Eyck (born Götz von Eick).
In fact, I thought for much of the film that I was watching Oskar Werner (much to my chagrin upon consulting the credits).
And so we have a hodgepodge of refugees in this one-horse town of Las Piedras, but the oil industry beckons…on the frontier. It is a dangerous industry (and becomes infinitesimally more dangerous through the course of this film).
I do believe I have heard Clouzot described as the French Hitchcock. After seeing this, that makes perfect sense.
Le salaire de la peur is such a pithy, visceral film.
I don’t want to give too much away, but this is a very powerful film which takes aim at corporate callousness. But the real theme is danger. Fear. Anxiety. The sickness of worry.
It reminds us that we shouldn’t judge our fellow humans too harshly. We can never know the exact feelings or the exact situation.
One final thought. Nitroglycerine plays an integral part in this film.
I pray that the Russian soldiers who died yesterday will not have died in vain. May the leaders of Turkey and the other NATO countries come to their senses in what has been sheer geopolitical insanity along Russia’s border. What restraint Russia has shown compared to the egregious stunt pulled by Turkey! As with all actions emanating from the West, I wouldn’t be surprised if the incident was ordered to occur (giving propitious conditions) by a power residing much further west than Ankara.
May courage and wisdom be with the militaries of all nations, the soldiers of which are thrust into the most unenviable positions imaginable. War for profit has hit its maximum potential. If there be one true diplomat left on the planet, let him or her please stand up at this crucial time.
Don’t count too much on your simulations.