I’m not collegiately trained in film. That annoys me because I love it. Not just the horror and exploitation cinema that are the focus of this site, but of all film from a variety of ages. I did have the opportunity to take a class in high school that was more of a general filmmaking, film history class and encompassed quite a broad range of topics from the silent era to German expressionism to the French New Wave and beyond. I remember enjoying Hiroshima Mon Amor though I only remember it in pieces (the class having taken place some 17 years ago). I’m sure during that same period we would have discussed Rene Clair, however we didn’t watch his films. When I saw the Cohen Film Collection edition of The Beauty of the Devil come through the press release I jumped at it.
Let me tell my horror fans that this isn’t a horror tale or at least not in the “scary” sense of the term. It’s a gothic tale… Faust. While that has supernatural implications and metaphysical leanings, there’s a lot less to be frightened of and a whole lot more to appreciate in terms of visual style, narrative and shot composition. While it was made in the 1950 many of Clair’s shots felt like some of Frank Capra’s work in America. Whether French cinema had been completely taken over by Hollywood sensibilities this early I cannot say though the New Wave would follow shortly in stark contrast to the filmmaking of the Americans during the 40’s.
The Beauty of the Devil is often funny with hints of true brilliance in comedic timing. We’re talking chuckle laughs not full, rollover belly laughing. Michel Simon and Gerard Philipe are excellent as devil and professor consorts who play off each other well in the struggle between good and evil, right and wrong and strange moral questions that can arise from the simplest of vain choices. The story is fresh in Clair’s capable hands.
If you are unfamiliar with Clair’s work you, but enjoy American filmmaking of the 1940’s this is a great way to bridge the gap. His filmography is extensive beginning in the silent era of the 1920’s. Plenty to enjoy, but this is a palatable introduction. The release comes with the 2010 documentary featurette, original French trailer and theatrical re-release trailer.
The transfer is brilliant though I am light on technical details. The packaging is traditional Cohen Film Collection and includes a variation of a still from the movie on the front with still inside as well as a chapter card and cast booklet. This is meant for collector’s and cinema lovers alike.