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 »
A wanted gangster is both king and prisoner of the Casbah. He is protected from arrest by his friends, but is torn by his desire for freedom outside. A visiting Parisian beauty may just tempt his fate.
At the end of the 15th century, two minstrels Gilles and Dominique come from nowhere into the castle of Baron Hugues. Gilles charms Anne, Hughes' daughter, while Dominique charms both ... See full summary »
During the First World War, two French soldiers are captured and imprisoned in a German P.O.W. camp. Several escape attempts follow until they are sent to a seemingly impenetrable fortress which seems impossible to escape from.
A charismatic thief makes friends with a bankrupt baron who comes to live in the thief's slum. Meanwhile the thief seeks the love of a young woman, who is held emotionally captive by her slumlord family.
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
Some may notice that the Le Havre setting, while realistic, seems to have a slightly strange perspective. This is because the streets were constructed with a "false perspective" technique: the buildings were gradually scaled down in size the farther they go into the background; when shot with the proper camera lens, such a street will seem to stretch away from the camera up to four times longer than it actually does. See more »
As the truck approaches Le Havre, Jean's cigarette is at full length in the shot from outside the truck, but in the close-up it has instantly changed into a butt. See more »
Some people go fishing or hunting or go to war. Others commit crimes of passion. Some commit suicide. You have to kill someone.
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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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