The Wages of Fear Screen 4 articles

The Wages of Fear


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  • It takes far too long and that ending is fatalism at its most overblown. But Clouzot's toxic sense of character still stings. "Pure suspense" nothing—this is a bitter, textured fuck-you to the world of 1953. Its setting isn't South America so much as a post-WWII purgatory, as different languages/accents mingle in a corporate-controlled desert where everyone wants to escape. Key line: "What's beyond it?" "Nothing."

  • In its original form, Clouzot's grim thriller had been basically stripped down to its action components, which are among the most gripping to be found anywhere in movies. As it happens, I liked the movie when I saw it in its reduced (and censored) form as a teenager, despite its changed ending, but I like it even more now in its complete (?) form. Its somewhat dated macho elements notwithstanding, the film's pile-driving persistence over two and a half hours commands a certain numbed respect.

  • Like THERE WILL BE BLOOD, the film captures the obsession and mania that seem like an inevitable byproduct in the quest for oil. Though THE WAGES OF FEAR isn't an explicitly political film, it is decidedly anti-American, offering a critique of corporate imperialism, indigenous exploitation, and a division of labor in which (for the underclass) work and death are essentially one and the same.

  • The history of film theory abounds with chapters on the impact of fundamental film syntax. . . . Not often part of this conversation is the French filmmaker Henri-Georges Clouzot, even though his 1953 film, The Wages of Fear (Le Salaire de la peur), is a model of elemental, technical tension, containing a sustained sequence lasting roughly 90 minutes (part of its 147-minute total runtime) in which the basics of cinematic grammar are implemented and manipulated to astonishing ends.

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