Wednesday, June 17, 2009

L'assassin habite au 21 (1942)

I'm glad because this month every Tuesday TV5 shows Henri-Georges Clouzot movies. Next week it will be Quai des orfevres (1947). I love his work, although I have only seen 3 so far: Les diaboliques, Le corbeau and L'assassin habite au 21, which was shown last night. H.G. Clouzot is said to be the French Alfred Hitchcock, but the dialogues in Clouzot movies make me giggle more. With the exception of Les diaboliques, they are more comic than thrilling.

In L'assassin habite au 21, a murderer haunts the city streets and leaves his calling card on each of his victims. "Monsieur Durand", it says. The police finally have a clue: the killer lives on 21 Junot Avenue, Hotel Mimosas, a family boarding house. Inspector Wens (Pierre Fresnay), who leads the investigation, decides to reside there, disguised as a pastor. One more murder confirms that Monsieur Durand is indeed among the lodgers. However, every time the police make an arrest, a new crime is committed. Only later Inspector Wens finds a clue in the program list to celebrate the release of 3 boarders arrested by the police.

Each character is unique: Wens's girlfriend Mila (Suzy Delair) the soprano who is promised a job if she can have her name on the news' front page, Colin (Pierre Larquey) the doll maker, Lalah-Poor (Jean Tissier) the magician, the limp Doctor Linz (Noël Roquevert), Mlle Cuq (Maximilienne) a "young" maid who tries to be a novelist, Kid Robert (Jean Despeaux) a blind ex-boxer - and his beautiful nurse, Mme Point (Odette Talazac) the hotel's owner, Armand (Natol) the valet who can imitate voices. Each one arouses suspicion, except the valet, who always has a solid alibi.


Inspector Wens concludes that the killer is not one man, but three. I wonder how he arrives to that conclusion. It's easy to guess the killer is more than one, most likely two. But why three? Because the word "Trio"? Perhaps from the way Monsieur Durant kills his victims: by strangulation, sword, and pistol.

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