Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.
The Wages of Fear aka Le salaire de la peur
dir. Henri-Georges Clouzot (1953) scr. Henri-Georges Clouzot and Jerome Geronimi cin. Armand Thirard with Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Folco Lulli, Peter van Eyck
In 100 words: For my money, this is the greatest thriller movie ever. Clouzot’s meticulous construction of each scene is Hitchcockian, and once the movie gets on the road, his editing and sound design build the nerve-racking suspense. But just as the inherent danger in the film’s plot brings the suspense, the script’s existentialism adds tension between the characters, carefully building them up to crumble. Images impart a lot of meanings and ideas that are often unforgettable. Moreover, the film’s social critique is impressively incorporated: I love its take on American imperialism in Latin America and the destructiveness of oil and big business.
Other Movies for Context: I’m still waiting to watch more of Clouzot’s work, particularly the actress-y Diabolique (1955), which is on my list this year. Sorcerer (1977), William Friedkin’s American remake is often thought of as an overlooked masterpiece, and it’s also on my list to watch.