The Wages of Fear
A Film by Henri-Georges Clouzot
New Books Network 2023
Clouzot’s 1953 thriller may be the ultimate bait and switch, moving from a character study of four desperate men in limbo into one of the most suspenseful films ever made. The Wages of Fear shows us the triumph of human ingenuity much like Robinson Crusoe or Castaway, but it’s also a grim statement about how we all carry our deaths within us: the thing from which we try to flee every morning when we wake up is closer than we can imagine. Everything hangs by a thread, and Clouzot exposes that thread by reducing human experience to its lowest terms. That he does so in a film in which trucks move slowly and carefully–usually forbidden on the big screen–adds to the audaciousness of his vision. Join Mike and Dan for an appreciation of a film that reminds them of Seven Samurai, The Dirty Dozen, Saving Private Ryan, The French Connection, Smokey and the Bandit, Reservoir Dogs, and The Road Warrior. This movie may have a Mario and a Luigi, but there’s no Rainbow Road.
If you are interested in Henri-George Clouzot’s life and career, check out Christopher Lloyd’s book in Manchester University Press’s series on French film directors. The Very Short Introductions series by Oxford University Press includes one on French Cinema; the British Film Institute’s The French Cinema Book is an anthology of essays. You can also find our previous episode on Clouzot’s Diabolique here.