|A Clouzot Star Remembers . . . By Dave Kehr|
October 25, 2002
of the indelible images of the classic French cinema comes in Henri-Georges
Clouzot's 1947 "Quai des Orfèvres," a very noirish thriller
being rereleased nationally in a handsome new print by Rialto Pictures.
(In New York, it opens today at Film Forum in the South Village.)
Suzy Delair, as the music hall chanteuse Jenny Lamour, is posing for some revealing publicity pictures under the appreciative eye of a female photographer (Simone Renant). Stretched out on a chaise longue in the feathers-and-corset creation that is her stage costume, she squirms delightfully, exuding a pleasure in her own sexuality that no American film of the period would dare.
Now an energetic 85, Ms. Delair lives in Paris in a fashionable Left Bank neighborhood near Les Invalides. Speaking by phone from her apartment, in a flavorful, slangy French that suggested she had lost none of her sparkle, Ms. Delair recalled her first meeting with Clouzot, with whom she made three films and, for a long while, shared her life.
"He met me when I was a little debutante, working with Mistinguett," Ms. Delair said, recalling the great French cabaret star. "He adored Mistinguett, and he came to one of her shows, where I was singing one of her great successes, `Valencia.' And he put a cross next to my name. The next time he came to the show, he waited for me at the exit, and we went for a drink. And that lasted for 12 years."
For Clouzot she appeared in "Le Dernier des Six" (1941) and "L'Assassin Habite . . . au 21" (1942), two dark thrillers made under the German Occupation. "Quai des Orfèvres" was made immediately after the war, and the sense of sudden freedom is balanced by a crushing lack of basic needs heat, for example. Most of the characters wear their overcoats indoors, and cigarettes seem to be the chief form of sustenance. (The title refers to the address of the main offices of the Paris police; in the United States, the film was first released as "Jenny Lamour.")
But Ms. Delair provides plenty of warmth, particularly with her enthusiastic rendition of "Avec Son Tra-La-La," a song chosen by Clouzot for the film. "It became a worldwide success," Ms. Delair said. "I always preferred the other song in the film, `Danse Avec Moi,' but it was the `Tra-La-La' that took off."