Charlie Kohler is a piano player in a bar. The waitress Lena is in love with him. One of Charlie's brother, Chico, a crook, takes refuge in the bar because he is chased by two gangsters, ... See full summary »
Abel Davis is a criminal, hunted in Italy. The police are closing in, so he and his pal Raymond arrange to flee back to France with Abel's wife, Thérèse, and their two young sons. Abel and ... See full summary »
Lucienne Delamare and Pierre Maury are having an affair. Lucienne's husband Paul is the mayor, and a French deputy. Pierre's wife Clotilde has been weak and sickly for years. Lucienne's ... See full summary »
Francois, a sympathetic factory worker, kills Valentin with a gun. He locked himself in his furnished room and starts remembering how he was led to murder. He met once Francoise, a young fleurist, and they fell in love. But Francoise was gotten round by Valentin, a dog trainer, a machiavellian guy... Written by
A fascinating, slow, intense original to "The Long Night" from 1947
Le Jour Se Leve (1939)
This French movie is oddly famous as the original, almost lost (destroyed) version of the American, The Long Night (1947), and it almost demands comparison. In all, the American version with Henry Fonda in the lead is more beautifully made, and perhaps more compelling for a lot of very small reasons.
But this French one, which is not only first, has a couple key qualities that make it worth getting absorbed into. For one, it is more seriously realistic, with both a sexual frankness (implied, but not ignored) and a lack of a "Hollywood ending," naturally enough. It is filmed beautifully, and acted really well (the "bad" man in this one is more convincing and lifelike than the Vincent Price incarnation in the later one).
But it is also a slow film, with far too much of the man, played by Jean Gabin, who was also in the 1937 Grand Illusion) staring and pacing. Here is where the photography and editing of the later film sustain us through the solitary moments much better. This version almost feels low budget, at least by American standards, without making the uncomplicated production always a virtue (it doesn't cost more to move the camera closer, or cut out sections of staring into space). I know this is all an aesthetic decision, and the slow, sad realizing of the character summing up his life is really at the center of it all, but see both films and see what you think.
Two things are really astonishing.
First, the almost scene by scene similarity of the second film to the first. Camera angles, dialog, flashbacks (many), even the dog trainer's show, and the teddy bear missing an ear, all of this is just copied and reproduced in the later movie, to an almost ridiculous extreme. (No wonder RKO tried to destroy every single copy of Le Jour Se Leve before making The Long Night. Sad and weird.) That's certainly a bowing down to this first one for good reason.
Second, the dilemma the men face in the two movies is actually a little different at the core, and this is a product of the times they were made. In The Long Night, the man is an ex-soldier suffering from having been through the horrors of World War II, and so the standard American film noir themes are distilled and honed down to this one man (Fonda) in his room. The earlier French film was made just as the war was about to start, and the man (Gabin) is suffering from a more universal problem of being a working class man putting in long hours, cheerfully, with little hope for a future for himself. The dandy-ish counterpart that is his nemesis is unattractive in nature, but has charm and education and abilities beyond this man's noble simplicity, and it seems that society, and women, favor this more false kind of man.
It's because of these themes the French version has a growing reputation. It's really well acted, and a classic dilemma played out with beauty and pathos. That it isn't perfect is something we have to adjust to, remembering it was forward looking for its time.
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