La Prisonniere was the unusual last movie made by master film director Henri-Georges Clouzot. Better known for some of the greatest thrillers in French cinema, specifically Les Diaboliques and Wages of Fear, he finished his career with this art house film about a love triangle. La Prisonniere opens with gallery owner Stan Hassler ( Laurent Terzieff ) playing with some creepy looking sex dolls. With the jarring music you would almost expect that Clouzot was setting up a scenario where Hassler commits some sort of deviant crime, perhaps being some sort of serial killer. But the movie does not go in that direction. Instead we are introduced to a married couple, the artist Gilbert Moreau ( Bernard Fresson ) and his wife Jose ( Elisabeth Wierner ). They have one of those open modern marriages that allows Gilbert to engage in hanky panky with a female journalist at the opening of his exhibit in an attempt to get a good story out of her. Understanding why her husband is doing this, but never the less feeling jealous, Jose accepts an invitation from Hassler to go up to his apartment for a drink. There he shows her slides of his photography, close up pictures of handwriting, and one picture of a nude woman bound in chains which he claims got in there by mistake. Jose wants to see the photo again but Hassler won’t allow it. The next day while delivering one of her husband’s art pieces to the gallery Hassler asks her for a lift. He casually mentions that he will be taking more pictures that afternoon of a female model and Jose asks if she can watch. The shoot has the model ( Dany Carrel ) taking her clothing off while gyrating. When Jose realizes that she is enjoying watching this take place she abruptly leaves, but returns later that day and agrees to have nude pictures taken with the same model. An unhealthy affair blossoms between Jose and Hassler which Gilbert becomes aware of.
While fans of Clouzot’s past work may be expecting this to lead to murder, it does not. Hassler is deranged, but never physically harms anyone. Gilbert is outraged by his wife’s affair and does storm off to Hassler’s apartment to teach him a lesson, but does not kill him even when Hassler stands on a ledge begging Gilbert to push him off. Hassler admits that he has in the past few weeks wanted to kill himself but can’t bring himself to do it. The closest the film comes to any real thriller type moment is a train accident in the final act, but that is as close to a signature Clouzot movie as this gets. Instead the film ends with an avant-garde dream sequence that is brought on by a fever a character has as a result of the accident. La Prisonniere is far from perfect. The plot has Jose falling in love with the clearly insane Hassler, but I did not buy this for one moment. Clouzot would have us believe that somehow she is mesmerized by Hassler when she finds out he is into deviant photographs, and after he browbeats her into participating in a photo session herself has somehow fallen in love. But this is not only after the movie establishes her love for her husband with a few intimate scenes between them, but never gives any reason as to why Jose and Hassler should suddenly be in love. Furthermore there is zero chemistry between the two actors. And this is a shame as believing the two characters are in love is central to the plot and effects the emotional impact of every scene to follow. When Gilbert and Hassler have their confrontation on the roof I was so disconnected with the scene that I was more preoccupied with watching two men way off in the background on another roof, obviously up there to watch the spectacle of a movie being filmed and occasionally waving at the camera. Visually, La Prisonniere is exciting to watch. But there is no real story and nearly no emotion to go with it. Even what should be a touching ending falls emotionally flat. And that is a shame coming from a director who had made many classic edge of your seat thrillers during the ’50s
Dany Carrel had a brief career as a sex symbol in French cinema, usually small parts where she played the hot girl. In this movie she plays Maguy, the model who shows up at Hassler’s apartment for a photo session. At 35 minutes she first shows up wearing a pink dress, a green button that reads “J’ai des Problemes” ( I Have Problems ) and carrying folded over her arm a clear plastic raincoat. She walks into Hassler’s apartment and a sliding wall slams behind her, only momentarily startling her even though she is now in a room decorated with creepy statues. Not concerned with the exit disappearing, or Hassler’s announcement that he has invited Jose over to watch, Maguy follows directions and begins to lift her dress up while having pictures taken of her. Next Hassler asks her to slowly gyrate while she slips her dress over her head, then to remove her bra. Jose sits in a chair watching intently and clearly getting off on watching the interaction between Hassler and Maguy. At 39 minutes he picks up the plastic raincoat and throws it to Maguy, directing her to put it on. As Hassler continues to photograph her wearing the raincoat over panties and no bra she begins to gyrate faster, sometimes rubbing her chest, while you can hear the sounds a plastic outfit would make on a moving girl. As the clicks from Hassler’s camera starts to go faster and faster there are frequent cut aways to Jose who is biting her lip and beginning to rub herself. Finally Hassler grabs Maguy and rips her raincoat off, and for a second it looks as if he is about to make out with her. But instead he begins to take more pictures of the gyrating Maguy who’s body is now covered in droplets of sweat. She begins to moan as she tires and asks Hassler if she can take a break. She sits down on the couch next to Jose, who in turn begins to become self conscious about enjoying the whole photo session and making an excuse leaves the apartment. Hassler decides the photo session is over an throws Maguy her dress. This is more or less the only fetish scene in the movie, but well worth watching, especially for those who have a clear plastic fetish. It should be pointed out that at 1 hour 35 minutes Jose has a dream that includes her wearing a clear plastic raincoat over no clothes and having her picture taken, but this happens so briefly that you would have to hit the pause button to fully enjoy it. And since it is taking place during a fever induced crazy dream it is not particularly sexy. The only other outfits that Jose wears that are close to being worth noting are a regular brown leather jacket at 29 minutes and a yellow Mackintosh style raincoat at 1 hour 19 minutes.