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Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno 

Serge Bromberg's documentary captures the madness behind the scenes

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What must be the most erotic tease with a Slinky ever filmed, performed by the stunning French actress Romy Schneider, never would have made it to theaters had Lobster Films not unearthed 15 hours of lost footage that was to have been French director Henri-Georges Clouzot's opus Inferno.

  In 1964, Clouzot (The Wages of Fear, Diabolique) was given an unlimited budget to create Inferno, a film about obsession. In it, a middle-aged man (Serge Reggiani) is driven to the brink of insanity by jealousy over his young wife (Schneider). Clouzot spared no expense enlisting cameramen and technical consultants, who well before the era of sophisticated special effects and digital manipulation found ways to print film with illusions like the image of a bikini-clad woman waterskiing on a lake of blood. But the most amazing footage from the project fetishized Schneider with lights swirling over her bare skin, water cascading over the edge of her glass, and cigarette smoke rushing into her mouth.

  Mirroring his subject, Clouzot was unbearable during the production. He drove Reggiani to exhaustion, Schneider to the edge of quitting, and had a heart attack himself. After several weeks of shooting, the project imploded and the film was shelved.

  In 2005, Serge Bromberg acquired the raw footage, and his documentary weaves together the original story of Inferno, with original scenes and contemporary actors reading connecting segments. Original crew members recall working with Clouzot as he unraveled emotionally. We also see copious footage from all the optical illusions and effects created to simulate the experience of sexual obsession for the viewer. Even Alfred Hitchcock would marvel at the on-screen mania. Some of the interview material is for foreign film buffs only, but footage from Inferno, the filming of Inferno and tales of Clouzot's madness are worthy of Captain Ahab-like obsession. Tickets $7 general admission, $6 students/seniors, $5 Zeitgeist members. — Will Coviello

Feb. 11-16

Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno

7:30 p.m. Friday-Wednesday

Zeitgesit Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center, 1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 827-5858; www.zeitgeistinc.net

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