"The joys are in the details of this knock-out noir."
Originally released in 1947 and "missing" for 50 years, Henri-Georges Clouzot's Quai des Orfèvres (the title refers to the French equivalent of Scotland Yard) is a breezy noir mystery featuring a trio of characters who become the primary suspects in the murder of a sleazeball movie producer: Jenny Lamour (Suzy Delair), a music hall floozy with a heart of gold; Maurice Martineau (Bernard Blier), her milquetoast but insanely jealous husband and accompanist, whom she adores; and Dora Monier (Simone Renant), a lesbian photographer with an unrequited love for Jenny.Investigating the murder of the repellent Brignon (Charles Dullin) is a seemingly plodding but tenacious, and ultimately insightful, detective, Inspector Antoine (Louis Jouvet), whose character here may well have been the model for Hitchcock's Chief Inspector Oxford in Frenzy and/or Frederick Forsythe's Inspector Thomas in The Day of the Jackal.
With the sparking black-and-white cinematography of Armand Thirard beautifully restored by Studio Canal and Rialto Pictures, Quai conveys perfectly the smoky, seedy atmospheres of Paris music halls and police stations of the day, imparting joy in its delicious details:
There's the flirtatious Jenny, saucily shaking her tailfeathers for an enrapt audience in a rousing performance of "Avec son tra-la-la." Then there's that pot of milk boiling over on a stove to convey Jenny's and Maurice's sexual frenzy for each other. Exuding a sexual tension of her own is the devoted Dora, who makes an alluring personal fashion statement in boldly monogrammed sweaters. And then there's the dialogue! When Maurice complains of having wasted two hours answering Inspector Antoine's questions, the detective retorts, "Imagine asking them for ten years."Ending satisfyingly, in almost Dickensian fashion, on a Christmas morning, with the bells of Notre Dame ringing and a content father and son playing in the snow, the audience can almost experience the feel of the crisp air, the sound of the bells, and the smell of Christmas trees.