Saturday, October 3, 2009

Le salaire de la peur (1953)

This movie won at the Cannes Film Festival and Berlin Film Festival, so I actually hoped for something better after re-watching Rififi last week. Le salaire de la peur (a.k.a. The Wages of Fear) starts slowly to introduce the characters and there are not many twists in the plot like Clouzot’s previous work such as Le corbeau or L’assassin habite au 21. Le salaire de la peur is set in a poor South American town called Las Piedras. An American oil company is burning and to transport 2 trucks of nitroglycerin needed to put out the fire, 4 men are hired: Mario (Yves Montand) and Jo (Charles Vanel) in the first truck, and Bimba (Peter van Eyck) and Luigi (Folco Lulli) in the 2nd truck. They must drive carefully 300 miles over mountain roads as their load can explode easily.

As soon as the trucks start rolling, I felt the excitement and fear of the drivers as well. Jo, who has been so brave facing a gun, starts to lose his courage and falls ill - or so he says. However, his partner Mario has determined to finish the job for the high pay: US$2000 per person, so he can return to Paris – Pigalle.

The first breathtaking scene is when Mario drives the truck on the old wooden bridge and makes Jo falls over the edge. The next is when Bimba using the nitroglycerin to blow up a big rock which lies in the middle of the road. We also learn that Bimba and Luigi work well together, unlike the main pair, because Jo’s complains would have make me lose courage. Fortunately Jo has Mario. The greatest scene in the movie must be when Mario and Jo try to cross over the pool of oil. The images of Jo covered in oil must be difficult to make and the result is so beautifully scary.

The ending which shows Mario happily drives his truck, intercut with the celebration in Las Piedras, is also excellent. The truck dances, following the rhythm of the music. Mario cannot wait to go to Pigalle and it's interesting because in Bob le flambeur (1956), Pigalle is described as 'hell' and to go there one must 'go down'. Mario goes down to 'Pigalle', along with his truck.

Bimba : "If I've got to be a corpse, I want to be presentable."

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