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Life's a rotten business, says Jean, a deserter who arrives at night in Le Havre, looking to leave the country. He lucks into civilian clothes, a little bit of money, a passport, and a dog, and he also meets Nelly, a 17-year-old who's grown up too fast. She's the object of lust of men: including a boyfriend Maurice, her putative protector Zabel, and Lucien, a local hood. Jean falls for her, faces down Lucien, and gives her courage to stand on her own feet. A ship is leaving for Venezuela; can at least one of them be on it, or is that just a dream? Written by
...blame it on the "Quai des Brumes" !Both the right wing and the leftist reviews were chilly ,calling the movie " morbid" .Military censorship quickly banned "Le Jour se Lève" which was,if it were possible,even more depressing -and in my opinion even better,though at such a stratospheric level of art,this is minor quibble.
"You do not blame a barometer which forecasts the storm" was Carné's famous answer.
"Quai des Brumes" belongs to the legend of the French cinema.In a poll made around 1980,it was 8th best French film of all time (the number one,another Carné's masterpiece " Les Enfants Du Paradis" was a safe ,predictable choice ).More than the detective plot (there are many deaths in this film) ,the atmosphere of this misty harbor,with its ships about to sail away for these islands in the sun you'll never know ,is all that counts.It was the triumph of the Réalisme Poétique ,a label Carné himself did not like : these stories were poetic but they were not that much realistic,for they were filmed in studios ;masterpieces of cinema de studio of these golden years ,when the French were the best in the world : the harbor is unforgettable,as are the Canal Saint-Martin in "Hotel Du Nord" ,the metro station in "les Portes de la Nuit" or Le Boulevard Du Crime" in "Les Enfants Du Paradis".
After an odd effort -which is today considered ahead of its time- " Drôle De Drame" , " Quai Des Brumes" is actually the follow-up to "Jenny" (1936).The gallery of sinister-looking persons was already present in Carné's first movie,and Françoise Rosay's last lines indicated that the relatively optimistic ending would mute .
"Quai Des BRumes" leaves no hope to the viewer .This harbor which should mean freedom,escape is actually a blind alley ;nobody can escape.When Gabin appears in his shabby uniform and the gorgeous Michele Morgan in her raincoat and wearing her famous beret ,we know that their fate is already sealed.All the b.... around cannot understand true love .This is Carné's favorite subject: Michel Simon and Michèle Morgan are the prototype of the director's odd couple :see also Jules Berry and Jacqueline Laurent in "Le Jour Se Lève" or Pierre Brasseur and Nathalie Nattier in "Les Portes De La Nuit".
Extraordinary scenes: Michel Simon,playing loud classical music which becomes "exotic" in such a rotten world.The same ,crying his heart out for love which he has never known "Nobody loves me!" ;Nelly and Jean on the harbor,exchanging Prevert's haunting lines " Every time the sun rises ,we hope something fresh will be born,but when it goes down,it the same old gloomy world" "The bottom of the sea is full of rubbish" ;the opening scenes ,with this truck running through a foggy country .
All the endings of Carné's movies of that era are mind-boggling:from the sun rising as the tragedy is complete ("Le Jour Se Lève") to the still beating hearts ("Les Visiteurs Du Soir"),from Baptiste lost in the crowd ("Les Enfants Du Paradis" ) to the stunning editing which concludes "Quai Des Brumes" : Jean,Nelly,the ship,the dog ,all this ,more than the other endings had a strong influence on more movies I can think of: Yves Allegret 's "Dédée D'Anvers ",Carol Reed's "Odd man out" -also influenced by Duvivier 's 'Pepe le Moko" are two prominent examples.
We may have lost the war...but we have gained another masterpiece by one of our greatest directors and one of our greatest writers.
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