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Jean Gabin flees France and looks for a safe haven in Genoa with Isa Miranda
Neither of the current two IMDb reviews speaks favorably of "The Walls of Malapaga" (1949) aka "Au dela des grilles", which means "beyond the gates". IMDb voters are more accurate on this one, with a 6.9 score. This is a very good combined noir-neo-realist film. I liked it a lot. It's very atmospheric, well-directed, not missing a beat, uses locations wonderfully, and is smoothly acted all the way through.
Jean Gabin plays a Frenchman who has fled from France, having killed his 22-year old woman out of jealousy; but this is not an evil man. He gets off a cargo ship at Genoa and decides to stay, induced by Isa Miranda, who has separated from her husband. The ravages of war are not far behind, amid ruins and hard times. Miranda lives with her early teen daughter, Vera Talchi. Miranda has enough hope and love for two, while Gabin is thoroughly pessimistic, which is why he spends money like water. The police are after him.
The story and romance elements are not complex in terms of action, but the pace never flags because they are complex in terms of emotional states. Miranda is simply a terrific actress. Gabin makes his part look easy, but how many actors could carry it off as he does? It calls for subtle shadings of emotion.
Director René Clément has a very sure hand in this modest but engaging movie. The combination of noir and neo-realism works well.
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