Two men, a painter and a poor guy, have to cross over Paris by night during World War II and to deliver black market meat. As they walk along dark Parisian streets, they encounter various ... See full summary »
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Two men, a painter and a poor guy, have to cross over Paris by night during World War II and to deliver black market meat. As they walk along dark Parisian streets, they encounter various characters and adventures until they are arrested by German police. Written by
User reviewer jameswtravers ("Bourvil and Gabin at their funniest", jameswtravers from London, England, 18 June 2000) offers background about the negative critical reaction. Bob Taylor ("Hugely entertaining", Bob Taylor from Canada, 13 June 2005) informs us the plot does not resemble the original story.
Set in Occupied France during the second World War, Bourvil (Martin) recruits fellow black-marketeer Gabin (Grandgil) to transport a recently butchered pig to a predetermined destination in Paris by carrying two pairs of large suitcases. Much of the killing of the pig is seen on camera. Although the scene is filmed brilliantly, I always downgrade movies that have to resort to showing live animals being slaughtered.
When we think of Gabin's monumental filmography, and know in this film we have French Resistance, Black Marketeers, French police and German soldiers/Gestapo men we naturally expect a very gritty journey. (Gabin reminds many people of Spencer Tracy. However, unlike Tracy, Gabin was always very convincing in dangerous, underworld roles. )
However, "La traversee de Paris" is not entirely suspenseful. It also has comedic elements and it is allegorical. Gabin's Grandgil is rousing and larger than life, while Brouvil's Martin is duller and timid. Yet, Grandgil is an anti-hero. He unnecessarily creates tensions, particularly with lower class strangers. As compared with Martin's propensity to restore peace (with his wife), and especially with the very likable German interrogator, Grandgil is, well, the only pig in the vicinity.
We also find out that this pig Grandgil also has a get-out-of-jail-for-free card. If we begin to associate Grandvil with the French who cooperated with the occupation, his overly rambunctious and demonstrative character seems less mystifying. "La traversee de Paris" upends the universe of post-war French film-goers used to watching films where cooperators are pariahs. This is likely why many film critics were opposed to it on release.
The direction and the pacing hold up today. Gabin turns in another great performance of his top-shelf career. It is "off message," but another worthwhile nugget in Gabin's exceptional career.
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