Four Bags Full (1956) Poster

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9/10
Funny and profound; a gem of French cinema
pzanardo23 March 2007
"La traversee de Paris" is a brilliant and often profound blend of comedy and drama. The story is rather uncommon and told in a most anti-rhetoric way. During World War II, in Paris occupied by the Nazis, two men have to deliver four cases filled with pork meat, for the black market. They cross the city overnight, trying to avoid French cops and German soldiers, as well.

The fun is mainly based on the duets between the two "heroes", Grandgil (Jean Gabin), and Martin (Bourvil), supported by a first-rate witty script. These two characters are drawn with psychological depth. Grandgil is somehow a mysterious man. Sometimes he seems to be a sort of thug. He despises and bullies innocent by-standers. He wants to cheat and steal the pork meat, following a sort of selfish anarchism. But many clues make the viewer feel that all this should be a Grandgil's joke. On the contrary, Martin is proud to be a decent person, and to keep honest and correct even working for the black market. The unavoidable quarrels arising between the two men build a non-standard but deep friendship. Extraordinary is the actors' job. Jean Gabin is deservedly a cinema legend, and never disappoints the audience. Here the always excellent Bourvil is on a par with his great partner.

On the background we have the masterly rendered atmosphere of those bleak years. French people is oppressed by deprivations and lack of food. Patriotism and heroic resistance are far from being appreciated. People are widely depressed by French defeat on the battle-field, and just wait for the end of the war and of German invasion. The first scene sets the tone of the movie. A blind beggar plays the Marseillese with his fiddle. Martin is displeased. What's the point of vainly provoking the Nazis? However he gives a coin to the beggar. And even a German officer gives money to the blind man. As a matter of fact, German soldiers do not appear as cruel barbarians. The officer who questions Grandgil and Martin is even nice. But when something wrong happens (namely, an attack against a German colonel), then the inhuman ferocity of Nazism shows his face. And the French hostages blame the partisans for that! Meanwhile, the swashbuckler Grandgil, always ready to despise other people's cowardice, realizes that in tragic circumstances one must care only for himself and his own life. There is a lot of depth in these scenes, believe me.

It is not surprising that this excellent movie was reviled by French audiences and critics when released. This anti-heroic, even petty representation of French people at war-time, was surely hard to swallow.

A magnificent nocturnal photography and artistic camera work, together with a first-rate direction by Autant-Lara, add further value to this superb movie.

The final scene may appear somehow stuck to the movie. But it contains an important message. Life has won, life continues. Common, simple, decent people survived. Barbarians have lost, doomed to destruction by their own infernal wickedness.

"La traversee de Paris" is a gem of French cinema. Highly recommended.
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9/10
Two great actors, dark humor and a darkened Paris
chouan21 June 1999
Marcel Aymé was an excellent writer who left us, among other things, short stories set in occupied Paris. No patriotic pathos or teary laments, but a dark humorous look at everyday life. With this movie Bourvil revived his carreer and established himself as a real great comedian. Jean Gabin, as usual, is excellent. The story line is simple : two men have to carry across Paris black market pig meat. Bourvil, an unemployed cab driver does it for money, Gabin, a well known artist does it for kicks.
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Bourvil and Gabin at their funniest
jameswtravers18 June 2000
The bringing together of two great comic actors of the calibre of Jean Gabin and Bourvil could not fail to be a great success, but this film surpasses the audience's expectations by several hundred kilometres. For both actors, this is a real tour de force. Bourvil is the hapless stooge to Gabin's outrageously forceful character, and the double act is unbelievably funny. One can't help but have pity for the poor unemployed Parisian as his night-time trudge across Paris is turned into his worst nightmare.

Whilst much of the humour is in the performance of its two stars (joined by Louis de Funes in that amazing cellar scene near the start of the film), the script is well-written and genuinely funny in places. The menace of the Nazi threat is there all the same, and this is heightened by the darkened sets representing a deserted Paris, resounding with the distant tread of the German patrols. The last twenty minutes of the film is a distinct contrast to what preceded it, and the humour appears to fade very quickly into drama. Luckily, our heroes emerge unscathed (possibly), but the threat of what might have been substantially changes one's view of the film.

Needless to say, when this film was released in 1956, scarcely 10 years after the end of the Second World War, it was widely reviled. It presented a view of the occupation that, whilst honest and accurate in retrospect, had never before been seen in French cinema and which was simply too much for many to stomach. Gabin's character was a particular target for scorn, representing a cynical free-thinking attitude that could only be regarded as dangerous and anti-Republican. The film's director, Claude Autant-Lara, should be credited with immense courage in presenting to the French people his perception of the war, unadulterated by the constraints of convention. That he should achieve this through one of the funniest of French films is a remarkable achievement.
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10/10
A true masterpiece
raskimono28 May 2005
Claude Aurent-Lara was one of the best directors France ever produced. A good director takes a similar harmless story and elevates to high art. A bad one cannot. It is in the way he frames a shot, builds the tension and especially the transition shots that define one. In that case, Aurent-Lara ranks up there with the likes of Eisenstein and Hitchcock. The man was an ultimate craftsman who understood cinema. Shame on Truffaut who just showed his ignorance for slamming him and his movies. This movie also known as four full bags teams two of France's biggest stars of the era, Jean Gabin and the one name Bourvil in a delicious comedy with a human heart. It is WWII and occupied France is running short of pigs thus creating a black market for it. Bourvil's job is to get the already killed pig's carcass aka pork in four cases and deliver it to the seller who will take it to the market. He meets and enlists the "homeless" Gabin to assist. They must outwit scared Parisiens and Nazis on the night watch to achieve this deceitfully simple task. That is all you need to know to enjoy this war time romp. The laughs come at a clip a minute, mainly from the garrulous and belligerent Gabin with Bourvil, the straight man in their Lawrence and hardy relationship. Before the night is over and daylight comes, we shall meet dogs, drunks, experience the fear of an occupied people who hope for a better tomorrow all done with a airy touch. And the last scene will make any cinema lover and human being rejoice. I love this movie so much, I think though it is not as complex as Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove shares its agony and eccentricity of the nature of war.
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gimme some skin, pig
writers_reign19 October 2003
Gabin a great comic? That's not the image that springs to my mind when I think of Gabin, but then neither do I think of Bourvil as a dramatic actor - until I stick 'Le Circle Rouge' in the machine for the nnnth time. Whatever, the two were teamed brilliantly in this post-war nod to the Black Market in Paris during the occupation. The 80 minute running time is just about right for this romp that obliges regular Black Marketeer Bourvil to work with a dep, Gabin, and transport valises stuffed with pork from arondissment to arondissment under the eyes of the Germans. The movie is kick-started via a cameo from all-time great French comic Louis de Funes and it seldom lets up. Although the soundtrack is replete with Parisian underwold slang the thing is so visual that even non French speakers could follow the story in the original, non-subtitled version. The denoument, such as it is, that Gabin is really a celebrity (artist) and is doing the gig for kicks rather than money, is fairly irrelevant, and the last scene, with Bourvil, now a railway porter, toting Gabin's bags is neither here nor there. Even today, half a century after the events, the French are still sensitive to anything apertaining to the Second World War and the French movies that address those feelings, whether sentimental, frivolous, or dramatic, are among the best movies of any country. This is no exception. Five stars in anyone's solar system.
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10/10
Best example of a perfect film:Black and White films are magical.
FilmCriticLalitRao25 July 2007
Claude Autant Lara was an important film maker of what is known as "old style French cinema". After "Douce", it is one of his most famous films. This film is a good portrayal of all the qualities good or bad with which a French person would like to associate. No aspect of human behavior is left untouched. There is greed, seduction, fear, optimism etc. Much of the film's brilliance is due to its simple style. There is not much of dramatization and what viewers see is a display of pure acting. The two major roles are played by Jean Gabin and Bourvil. As the film is set in Paris, viewers get an unbiased visual depiction of one of the most beautiful cities. If there are people who might not like it, it must be Nouvelle vague people. As they were experimenting with their own cinema, they decided to ignore what they called "cinema of quality". The best thing which has been portrayed in this film is that after the end of the war people lived happily. This is an indication of optimism in this film.
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8/10
Hugely entertaining
bob99813 June 2005
Marcel Ayme's original story goes this way. Martin and Grandgil hire out to a corrupt wholesaler, Jambier, in wartime Paris. They agree to transport about 200 lbs of pork in four suitcases to a butcher who is waiting to receive this contraband (rationing is in effect, remember). Grandgil through his histrionics, increases the fee to 5,000 francs from the original 900. They encounter some fascinating and corrupt people along the way. Martin kills Grandgil at the latter's studio: he's enraged by the artist's lack of concern for the value of work and the concept of honor. Martin delivers the pork finally and is arrested for murder.

Well, you wouldn't recognize the story that Aurenche and Bost created out of this sour little saga. They have given it a happy ending. I am not going to tell you what happens to Gabin and Bourvil, but it is a crowd pleaser. I have stated my reserve about late-period Gabin in the past, but here he is terrific. The rant at Jambier's store is very funny: "Jambier, 45 rue Poliveau, my price is a thousand francs!" Bourvil is a great foil for him; he's more rational and less risk-taking than Gabin, if also less imaginative.
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5/10
I don't quite get the enthusiasm for this film.
MartinHafer3 May 2016
Jean Gabin and Bourvil star in this film set during the German occupation. During this time, everyday items were often impossible to get and the black market, though very illegal, was the only way to get things like fresh meat and soap. The two stars of this film spend the evening trying to smuggle four suitcases full of pork through the streets of Paris without the Nazis catching them. Not the noblest of enterprises, I must admit.

The reviews for "Four Bags Full" are extremely favorable--and have ratings that mostly fall in the 8 or 9 range. Because of this, my sights were set very high with this film. This, combined with my love of French films, made me think I'd really like this film...but I didn't. I only found it passable and, most importantly, I kept having trouble staying awake as I watched. I guess I just don't see things the way others do when it comes to this movie. I found the plot sluggish and much of Gabin's behaviors through the film just didn't make a lot of sense. I also strongly believe the film played much better long ago...when memories of the occupation and rationing were still quite fresh.
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9/10
Sometimes, it's the darkest hours that allow the brightest souls to shine …
ElMaruecan8214 July 2015
I think it is a mistake to categorize "La Traversée de Paris" as a comedy, for despite its light-hearted tone, the casting of two comedic giants, one already established: Bourvil and a newcomer soon to be the King of Comedy: Louis de Funès, despite an extraordinarily smile-inducing performance of a no less colossal actor : Monsieur Jean Gabin, there is more gravity, fatality and ubiquitous sensation of danger in Claude Autant Lara's masterpiece than any archetypal war drama. And never are the laughs triggered by funny situations but funny reactions from rather dramatic situations. We laugh first and think after.

"La Traversée de Paris" was released in 1956, a decade after World War II. Paris hadn't changed much and people still had vivid memories of these dark years that followed the defeat in 1940. When France ceased to belong to French, the country was economically a slave for Germany while morally, French people were entrapped in a never-ending torment: the bitterness of having lost war, freedom, and the faith on a brighter future. It was indeed, as they say now, the 'darkest hours of French history', and it's only fitting that the movie takes place during the night, to accentuate the black-and-white hypnotic photography. Darkness is omnipresent when memories from WWII are revived, from "Night and Fog" to "Army of Shadows".

In fact, darkness is almost a protagonist for during the Occupation, it helped many good people to hide from the Germans or French Police. It was a time where French used their resourcefulness when ration tickets weren't enough. The darkest hours saw the rise of the black market. After all, when the dignity of a whole country was traded for peace, when the government has betrayed the honor of France, many French didn't feel like owing anything to the power, it's less heroism than pragmatism, yet from our perspective these men and women were brave because they jeopardized their lives and could easily say one word too many to a friend of the Germans, a collaborator, as they say.

And the opening sets the tone, Marcel (Bourvil) and Mariette (Jeannette Batti) enter a bar, they learn that a black market partner was arrested because he trusted someone and told him he sold soap, he was then arrested. Speaking of soap, a painter named Grangil (Gabin) comes to the bar and needs to wash his hands, the bartender tells him that there's no soap as if there was enough trouble with it already. Police officers come and ask a client if his hands are dirty, coal has been stolen, Martin's girlfriend understands and discreetly gives Grangil a bar of soap. Everything is put together in that introducing sequence: solidarity, suspicion and betrayal. And if Grangil is brave enough to smuggle coal, maybe he'll make a good replacement to Martin's partner.

Grangil accepts to cross the town with luggage full of pork parts, avoiding Police and Commandantur. The journey starts and there's something so exhilarating in Gabin and Bourvil's performance that we enjoy first the film for what it is, a superb demonstration of what the Golden Age of French cinema was. Gabin who gained a little weight and gray hair was still looking fairly young and he who used to be so restrained and cold is more grandiloquent than Bourvil who's generally the funny guy but here plays the straight man. It's as if Gabin enjoys post-war life again and can finally inject the relief of the peace in his performance and even vent his passion against the cowards in two marvelous scene.

The first one is when he raises the prices of the mission, asking for more and more even though Jambier the butcher says yes from the beginning. Out of his lungs, he screams the name of Jambier, of the street he lives in, and asks for money where a disoriented Bourvil wants to shut him out. The scene is perhaps the noisiest of French cinema. Gabin is noisier than De Funès and funnier than Bourvil but the two stars take the distance with him, at that point, it's Cinema, all the genius of French Cinema finally imploding for laughs and simple laughs. But then right after comes the other powerful moment, with Gabin's rant, and boy, was he great at ranting, toward an old bartender and his clients who wanted to get them out from the bar when they felt something suspicious with two men carrying big luggage.

They were coward enough to denounce them and not to even take a chance and the luggage with an infuriating Gabin delivered one of the most powerful monologues of French cinema incriminating all the little guys who think they're better than the others but don't even make an effort to be decent, he insult their ugliness , physical and moral and conclude his diatribe with an immortal "salauds de pauvres", literally " which would e translated as "you rotten poor". Marcel Aym's script has never sounded so incisive, so politically correct yet so humanly correct at these time were courage was a luxury. This is Gabin show, and he carries the film as confidently and strongly as he does for the luggage, Bourvil and De Funès will have their stars shining in many films to come, but the reason to watch the film is to admire Gabin.

What he stands for in terms of masculinity and principals and moral values. Now, you have a French President claiming "I don't like the rich", which sounds so fake, so popularity-seeking,, so forgettable when a fictional Gabin treated the poor as rotten, it sounds real and eternal. This is how low things has sunk. "La Traversée de Paris" is a reminder that sometimes, it's the darkest hours that allow the brightest souls to shine.
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8/10
No overreaction here but just: a very good film
Horror-yo31 August 2018
It's interesting how quality is just quality. It doesn't matter that you might be a millennial watching this film from France, from the 50's, it's just as good as any more contemporary or culturally relevant top drawer picture.

The best feature in this is efficiency. It's short and sweet (just about 1hr20min), no scene ever stalls the movie, no line in the dialogue branches out into its own thing. It's tight, focused, and efficient. It knows exactly what it's about.

It's both fantastical in its concept and terribly realistic at the same time. Both lead actors were perfect for the cast and play their roles perfectly, while Louis de Funes is also excellent in a more secondary but not any more quiet role.

The film dishes out bits of life lessons here and there, forces a bit of thought and perspective, but never feels self-complacent or happy about itself. It delivers the goods, with a super simplistic plot, a bit of humor, a bit of wisdom, a bit realism, a bit of fantasy; it's a little tragic, but also quite light... and it does it damn well.
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6/10
Good for a laugh, but...
b1lskirnir18 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this film on a high school French field trip to the French Institute in New York. I had heard good things, but I must say that this movie does have its good moments, but overall there is not much to be gained.

Plot summary: Two men, a high-strung taxi driver and a smooth-talking painter, team up as an unlikely pair smuggling black market pig's meat in four suitcases across Paris to be sold for a large sum of money during the German occupation of France in WWII.

The camera-work is generally excellent as well as the acting, especially Borville ( after all, they're French ) but the biggest problems are the minor details. There are a few scenes that leave you feeling that they could've been planned, executed, and/or edited more effectively. Then again, there are a few scenes that are excellently planned, executed, and/or edited effectively.

Then there's the ending. Oi, if you thought The Return Of The King could've used some trimming, even if this ending is nowhere near as long, you'll know what needs to be removed when you see it. It's illogical, historically incorrect, and almost ridiculous. But it's French, so maybe it works.

From a modern perspective, it's a difficult movie to connect with. Although it does function as a period film, much of its relevance to today is virtually nonexistent. And much of the dialogue is cut during the English subtitling, so unless you're fluent in French, it'll be difficult to pick up on certain details. Overall, it's not a bad movie by any means, but it does leave much to be desired.
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7/10
Carnivores and Cooperators
cafescott12 April 2014
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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8/10
Transporting
jotix10018 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Paris during the German occupation was a city with limited supply of basic needs. As the story begins we are taken to a butcher shop where people are seen waiting to buy whatever is available. Alas, when the last scrap of meat is sold, the crowd outside must go home empty handed. Passing the store, Marcel and Mariette Martin, witness the frustration, although they are on the way to be part of an illegal business that will mean some meat for their meager diet plus some money.

The Martins come to Jambier's basement where a large pig is going to be slaughtered. Marcel's job is to take the meat across Paris to a butcher that is going to pay handsomely for the rare commodity. Since the hog that was killed weighed more than a hundred pounds, it is almost impossible for Marcel to transfer the valuable cargo to its destination. Outside Jambier's he finds a man that looks strong enough to help him. This man is Grandgil, a painter, who happens to be in the neighborhood.

Grandgil, realizing there is a lot of money involved in the deal, shames Jambier into giving him more money, while Marcel is to get the original share. The two men embark on a night adventure through a dark Paris. The two allies find all kinds of diversions while attempting to deliver the meat. Dogs are attracted by the scent within the suitcases as well as other individuals. Their adventure ends badly when Marcel and Grandgil are found by a German patrol and taken to their headquarters.

Claude Autant-Lara, the wonderful French director took a look at those dark days of the German occupation of Paris and turned it into a winning comedy that plays much better than it should because of the strength of the two main characters who come together because the promise of a lucrative deal, but who end up becoming friends. The war is omnipresent throughout the film, but it stays out of the way until the incident that marks the end of adventure of the two Parisians at the center of the story.

The pairing of two French idols, Jean Gabin and Bourvil, pays in unexpected ways. Both actors show why they were the professionals they were in the French cinema. Their collaboration came natural. Mr. Autant- Lara gets good performances from his strong cast that included Louis De Funes, in a small role, Jeannette Batti, Georgette Anys, and Jacques Martin, among them.

A must see for fans of the great Claude Autant-Lara
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7/10
Good comedy
LeRoyMarko19 April 2001
With Bourvil, Jean Gabin and Louis de Funès, this movie almost had to be a good comedy. And it was funny. The three actors all give solid performances. The movie is about two guys (Bourvil and Gabin) who travel through Paris at night to deliver some black market meat during WWII.

Out of 100, I gave it 73.
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9/10
Formidable
julienpechey24 March 2015
I saw this movie for the first time March 25, 2015, thank you to TV5 Monde. Having grown up and lived in France for 22 years I have never had the opportunity to see a poster of national chains, a shame. He should be showed every year same as the 2 others big others classical from the same actors. I do not know why but this film is of the same level. It's hilarious and plays by the greatest. However, I have a little regret the end, it smells the film accelerates and anticipates the end. Nowadays the same movie could be at least with 20 more minutes and improves the happy ending in another way. Anyway I recommend it to all from young to adults.
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