To the editors:
I was much intrigued by Jonathan Rosenbaum's fascinating essay on one of my favorite films, Clouzot's The Wages of Fear in the Reader of March 6. I have seen it twice, over a period of several decades, as well as William Friedkin's Sorcerer, which carried an acknowledgment of debt to the former film, and which was, in its own way, fully as great a film. In his article, Mr. Rosenbaum states that it is based on a best-selling novel by Georges Arnaud, date unspecified, but undoubtedly previous to the film's issue in 1955, by some years, as well as Mr. Clouzot's own experiences in Brazil in the 1950s.
There is a third film dealing with the same subject of a perilous truck journey across a vast, primitive jungle delivering an urgently needed product within a very narrow time frame. The basic theme of all three films is identical, and they differ in certain plot elements largely reflecting their country of origin. All three films are brilliant motion picture experiences and masterpieces of cinematic art in their own right. I am speaking, of course, in describing the third film, of the 1990 Brazilian film Jorge um Brasiliero ("Jorge, a Brazilian man"), or in its English title, The Long Haul, featuring in a principal role Dean Stockwell as the contractor who employs Carlos Alberto Ricelli to drive a truckload caravan of corn across the country to meet a government deadline. The director is Paolo Thiago, who showed the film here on October 4, 1990 at the Chicago Latino Film Festival.
At the discussion following the showing, I asked the director if he was aware that his film was fundamentally the same film as The Wages of Fear. He never had heard of or seen the French film, and claimed that it was based on a famous Brazilian novel written in the 1930s. He hadn't seen Sorcerer, either. Undoubtedly, South American and Brazilian literature are popular in Europe, and I wondered if Clouzot had heard of or read the Brazilian novel while conceiving his film, some 20 years after its debut. The Brazilian film never returned to Chicago, even after stunning and mesmerizing the audience with its mise-en-scene, superb acting and directing. The final scene, in which Mr. Ricelli vents his rage at his contractor employer (Stockwell) with his knife, was deeply moving and carried out in true capoeira style. So whose are the original sources of The Wages of Fear? Do they lie in France or Brazil? It does not matter. The world cinema is very much the richer for possessing three unqualifiedly brilliant films, all dealing with the same theme, and superbly acted and directed. I know of no other theme in the world cinema that has produced three films on the same theme and all of the same stature. And the world cinema is all the richer for possessing them.
Seymour S. Miller