On the meandering Canal St. Martin, at the Parisian Hôtel du Nord, a nearly fatal gunshot separates a dejected young couple. But, amid a sad but beautiful panorama of lively characters, love has the final say. Can life be a fairy tale?
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.
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
We see a man shot; who he is and why we don't know. The murderer has locked himself inside his room. Police are forced to shoot in, trying to get him to surrender. The story then proceeds in flashback.
Marcel Carné directs this famous French film starring Jean Gabin. The two had worked together the previous year on "Le quai des brumes", a film well known then and now. If you are unfamiliar with Gabin, he was to the late 1930's in France what Bogey would be shortly in America, only Bogey with a soupçon of Cagney. More animated than Bogart, but less than Cagney with his agile song-and-dance-man side. A tough guy who's actually a good guy.
Now, a soft-hearted tough guy who's surrounded by police -- that could also describe Bogart's breakthrough film, "High Sierra", from 1941, and perhaps there is some superficial similarity.
However, this story is mostly a tale of love affairs and working class life -- that's really where its interest lies. There's a real sympathy here for the common man, when even a modest house on a rutted street would seem beyond his reach.
This film's original reputation may have been based at least in part on its Gallic openness about sexual matters. It's quite outré by the Anglo-Saxon standards of 1939. Regardless, the justly celebrated "Le jour se lève" has a poetic quality overall, and a memorably ironic final shot of the kind we don't seem to see quite often enough anymore.
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