The Wages of Fear is a fundamentally flawed but interesting film
Henri-Georges Clouzot's Le salaire de la peur (or as it is more strikingly known in Germany, Lohn der Angst) is well known as a film that, along with Hitchcock, invented some of the modern rhetoric of suspense. Perhaps it is just as well known as a film whose portrayal of American oil companies' careless profiteering resulted in 20 minutes of it getting chopped off for US consumption. It seems like every write up of it also has to mention it's unforgivably misogynistic presentation of Véra Clouzot (also the director's wife at the time). And yet the movie has cache, so I guess it is forgivable.
The film is a pretty amazing tension-action film; the editing in particular is extraordinary. But the film is such a romp through varieties of homosocial masculinity that it makes sense that it needs the infantalized/sexualized woman as a baseline. When one of the brave men calls another one a "woman" as an insult, the film draws up back to the images of Véra Clouzot on her hands & knees responding canine-like to the whimsically violent needs of the protagonist.
If I wanted to be generous I could point out that the strike/response organizer in the town square is the other example of femininity in the film & that it implies there is another world of potential female power outside the constraints of the colonialist purgatory of the town & Southern Oil, but that's overly generous. This is a straight-up misogynist film.
Ultimately, what makes me interested in this (aside from the awesome action scenes), is that the film is about the failures of male-love. The Véra Clouzot character is quite literally jealous, seemingly sexually jealous, of the relationship between the protagonist & his new manfriend. However, through the course of the action sequences the rough physicality of the homosocial relationships all fail, either by a lack of masculine courage or the intervention of fate. The male-female love is portrayed as degrading to the woman & insulting to the man. But the male-male love is not held up as a viable option either. This is ultimately a nihilistic world in which no bonding achieves progress & no endeavor results in positive change.
Which makes this an interestingly influential film not only in how the editing of tension & action occur but in how the homosocial desire of all action films achieves or fails to achieve genuine change in the world of the characters. If this were a shittier & less influential film I'd just forget about it, but it's so meticulously crafted & rendered that I can't help but think about the place the film gives to masculine impotence. In a way my reaction reminds me of watching Medium Cool a film of both great power & embarrassing misogyny.