It was 1943 in an occupied France.This desperate movie was probably not made to cheer up French people .Christian-Jaque 's work is noir,noir,noir in every sense of the term.
All the action takes place in darkness ,in a runaway train where two mysterious men meet ,on a boat at the dimming of the day where sinister-looking sailors are waiting for something which could get them out of their dump,in a nightclub where a chanteuse down on her luck takes comfort on the roof of her building by listening to the ships leaving for faraway lands.
This is par excellence Realisme Poetique.Based on a novel by Pierre McOrlan ,who wrote "Quai des Brumes" the movie which virtually invented the genre ,or at least rocketed it to fame.Alain (Jean Marais) wants to sail away and to start all over again in Argentina.The subject of the faraway land is a cliché from those bygone days ,but Christian-Jaque renews it ,and makes "Voyage Sans Espoir" ,some kind of "Quai des Brumes " in reverse.
In the darkest night of a harbor which means danger and death ,the faces are often filmed in close shot,with a ray of light on their eyes. Christian-Jaque makes the best of a hackneyed subject and he is helped by his cast who includes Marais,Simone Renant,Paul Bernard,Louis Salou and Lucien Coédel
There's some racism in the movie though,perhaps a sign of the times (the Occupation):the Asian sailor is the most hateful member of the crew.With his broken French ,he epitomizes evil.A character says something like "that race,you can't trust them..".Later ,in the nightclub where a black dancer is performing ,a guest says "black becomes her,but do not worry,the singer ain't black".Later Christian-Jaque would give the "imagine" equivalent of a movie with " Si Tous Les Gars Du Monde" a hymn to universal fraternity which left no doubt with his ideas.As I said ,it was a sign of the time.
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