Manon (Henri-Georges Clouzot, France, 1949)



What a wonderful movie this is. The story of Manon Lescaut but now with a dual setting, ordered through flashbacks: the immediate post-war Paris of black-market profiteering (of all kinds) and Jewish boat people bribing their way into Palestine, the latter having a particular resonance today. The film is very frank about what Manon (Cécile Aubrey) does to get the finer things she can’t live without. It’s super-romantic about how Manon and Robert (Michel Auclair), the man she loves and one who can’t stop loving her no matter what she does, deal with the effects of her actions.

She’s a tramp, he rescues her; she lies, he suffers. He’s jailed, she sells herself so she can touch him. The ending is a delirium of sentiment..Beautifully directed with compositions in depth that feel original and striking. A rather atypical film for Clouzot though one finds echoes of Manon in the character played by Brigitte Bardot in La Verité. Serge Regianni is suitably callow and slimy as Manon’s brother, Léon. A gorgeous blu-ray production from Arrow.

José Arroyo

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