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A young couple, Renee and Pierre, take one night a room at the Hotel du Nord, in Paris, near the canal Saint-Martin. They want to die together, but after having shooted at Renee, Pierre ... See full summary »
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
When I was young this is what I used to call a "bulger", the first time I saw it when 18 years old I was so impressed by the bulging murky atmosphere, and the over-riding sense of doom pervading the film I thought it couldn't be bettered. Then I read up on Warner Bros. techniques for their best "atmospheric" potboilers such as The Big Sleep and realised it was, as usual, all down to saving money. LQDB is nearly completely studio-bound, therefore the fogs, darkness and even excessive cigarette smoke all came in useful in disguising the limitations created. In this case however the limitations are deliberate as it is the crux of the story, the elemental mist at Le Havre and Man's mental mists playing havoc with lives.
Not surprisingly, plenty of erudite praise has been showered down on LQDB over the years. Essentially it remains only a entertainingly depressing adult yarn, with a straight-faced storyline coupled with some gloomy and gleaming but pleasing black and white photography. I think Renoir called it fascist in a patriotic outburst; for Carne to get past the disapproving censor Gabin couldn't even be called a deserter in the film (although his one night stand with Nelly was cheerfully depicted). Needless to say, this has probably led to some confusion over the years as to why Gabin is on the run (more like stroll) anyway! Anyway, Fascism and fascism are both dark and depressing for the majority of us so that would make LQDB a faithful representation!
This was the 2nd of Carne's classic 6 consecutive films, culminating in 1945 with Les Enfants Du Paradis. To my mind the quality of this series remains unsurpassed in world cinema - unless you can think of another director who made 6 timeless classics one after another? All subjective, of course!
Nevertheless, one of my favourite films, not to be watched too often but always an effective antidote to the real world. Next: Hotel Du Nord.
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