At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm
At Alliance Française on Friday, February 13: Le Quai des brumes / Port of Shadows (1938) by Marcel Carné – 91 mins – France Crime/ Drama/ Romance. Black and white. Generally favorable reviews: 79 out of 100.
With Jean Gabin, Michel Simon, Michèle Morgan, Pierre Brasseur.
A deserter encounters in a harbor a poor girl. They fall in love but he kills his girl-friend's tutor who wanted to rape her. At last he's killed himself by a hooligan and the ship he wanted to go aboard to escape goes away without him...
– Alliance description
TV Guide: This marvelous distillation of the prevailing mood in prewar France was the first feature to win critical acclaim for the directing-writing team of Marcel Carne and Jacques Prévert (who had collaborated on Jenny and Bizarre, Bizarre, and who would later create the beloved Children Of Paradise). Gabin plays a deserter who comes to the port of Le Havre looking for passage to a distant country. In a local dive he becomes attracted to Morgan, ward of the owner of a shop that is a front for illicit dealing. When Gabin comes to Simon's shop to buy a gift for Morgan, the evil Simon promises Gabin a passport and money if he will kill one of Simon's enemies. Gabin refuses. But
hope for Gabin's escape comes when visionary artist Le Vigan gives the deserter his own passport before walking out on the quay and drowning himself.
A classic of French poetic realism, Port Of Shadows conveys a deeply fatalistic belief that humankind is at the mercy of malevolent fate, a message that is communicated both through the simple story line and through the superb fog-shrouded sets (the work of Alexander Trauner) and forbidding locations. Ironically, Port Of Shadows was originally to have been a German production. Carne was introduced to the Mac Orlan novel on which the picture is loosely based by Raoul Ploquin, then head of French productions at UFA in Berlin. Nazi propaganda minister Josef Goebbels turned thumbs down on the project, however; he considered this story of a deserter to be decadent. The rights were sold to French producer Gregor Rabinovitch, who envisioned a lighter, happier film, and so quarreled constantly with Carne. Carne also had political problems within his own country, primarily with the French minister of war, who would not permit the word "deserter" to be used and insisted that Gabin's soldier's uniform be treated respectfully. As a result, writer Prévert was forced to deviate from the novel in almost every respect. Notably, in the book, Morgan's heroine is no tempest-tossed innocent; she is a prostitute who murders her pimp and ends up wealthy. Banned from being shown during the Nazi occupation of France.
At Alliance Française on Friday, February 20: La Bête humaine / The Human Beast (1938) by Jean Renoir – 100 mins – France Drama. Black and white. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 79 out of 100.
With Jean Gabin, Simone Simon, Fernard Ledoux.
Séverine and her husband Roubaud kill their former employer on a train. Jacques an engineer witnesses the murder but does not report them to the police as he is deeply in love with Severine. However, during an epileptic fit, he kills her...
– Alliance description
Rotten Tomatoes: Made at the height of poetic realism in the French cinema, La Bête humaine is an adaptation of Emile Zola's classic work, starring Jean Gabin as railroad engineer Jacques Lantier. He lusts after Severine (Simone Simon), the lovely wife of stationmaster Robaud (Fernand Ledoux), but has kept his desire in check. While riding on Lantier's train, Robaud threatens to expose Severine's wealthy and powerful godfather, Grandmorin (Jacques Berlioz), for having violated his goddaughter when she was 16. Grandmorin threatens to ruin Robaud so the stationmaster kills the older man. Although Lantier is a witness, he fails to speak up when the wrong man, Cabuche (Jean Renoir), is indicted because of his feeling for Severine. Eager to ensure the engineer's silence, Robaud insists that Severine become his lover. Lantier does not require extensive persuasion. At length, Grandmorin is exposed and the ingenuous Cabuche is freed. But over time Severine has come to love Lantier. At this point she asks him to kill her husband so they can be together. But Lantier, overwhelmed by revulsion toward all that has come before, refuses to comply with her wishes. Gabin is utterly convincing as the tormented lover in this magnificently atmospheric tale of crime and passion.
At Alliance Française on Friday, February 27: Quai des Orfèvres / Jenny Lamour (1947) by Henri-Georges Clouzot – 95 mins – France Crime/ Drama. Black and white. English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 89/85 out of 100.
With Louis Jouvet, Bernard Blier, Suzy Delair, Simone Renant, Rene Blancard, Charles Dullin.
Suzy Delair stars as Jenny Lamour, an ambitious music hall singer who wants to be a star and is willing to befriend the lecherous old men who ogle her act, inspiring the jealousy of Jenny's husband Maurice Martineau (Bernard Blier). One particular fan of Jenny's is a wealthy financial backer who extends repeated invitations to the entertainer to join him at fine restaurants and his expansive mansion. Armed with a gun, Maurice goes to the estate to confront his rival one night but discovers that the master of the house is already dead, his wife having smashed a bottle of champagne over his head to stave off a sexual advance. Soon, a gruff but dedicated detective, Inspector Antoine (Louis Jouvet) is on the case, with Maurice taking the heat for Jenny...
– Alliance description
A thriller full of rich complex characters and a dark world view, perhaps attributable to Henri-Georges Clouzot's own experience with Le Corbeau, his previous film which was banned by both Nazi Germany and his French homeland. Brilliantly transforming a classic whodunit plot, the Gallic “Master of Suspense” takes us from the wings and dressing rooms of the Parisian music hall and circus worlds to the drab, airless corridors and holding cells of the Quai's Criminal Investigations Department, in a blend of social realism and psychological cruelty that became his trademark. One of the uncontested masterpieces of the postwar French cinema.