Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Le Jour se Lève (Daybreak)

Over the weekend I watched Le Jour se Lève, Marcel Carné's poignant proto-noir film about tough-guy Jean Gabin allowing passion to lead him to his doom. The reviews I've read often refer to the movie's "poetic realism" which is, I suppose, as good a characterization as any. It reminds me, oddly enough, of earlier films of René Clair such as Under The Roofs of Paris in which reality looks very much like fantasy. Film noir did not become a term of film criticism until after World War II, when French critics caught up, all at once, with a raft of American movies they had not had the chance to see. They noticed in them a dark, downbeat quality which was different from any of the American moods they were used to seeing. I think Le Jour se Lève makes it clear that they were particularly ready to appreciate that quality in film.

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