LE JOUR SE LEVE directed by MARCEL CARNE (1939)
Running time: 93 minutes
In French with subtitles
Know how Dr. Strangelove has one of them trailing additional titles (... or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb), like When the Pawn ... ? This movie has one in my brain: Le Jour Se Leve, or How I Get to Pretend Like I'm Dating Jean Gabin. One of the perks of speaking French is that I can stare at him without having to read the sous-titres. AND I can take lyrical amusement in the title, which translates to the film's American title — Daybreak — but literally means "the day, it rises." Awesome.
Le Jour Se Leve is part character study, part one-man show, but is known for defining the French genre of poetic realism. So-called poetic realist films (including another Jean Gabin gem, Grand Illusion) just remind me of early American noir. But I could be missing the point and oversimplifying the era, soooo I don't put too fine a point on this genre BUT delight in its aesthetic elegance and composition.
The movie is about Francois (Jean Gabin) committing a murder and hiding out, and we get the story of his life via flashbacks. It wouldn't be a Janus film without some sexy drama attached to it, and this film has plenty! Upon its release it was suppressed by the Vichy government because of its "demoralizing" nature, and then, when it was to be remade in Hollywood in the late 1940's, RKO endeavored to buy up and destroy every existing copy of it they could find. But they didn't get 'em all! And also, now, Internet.
Jean Gabin was reportedly Sergio Leone's favorite actor, which makes sense, because he'd be a killer strong, silent type in a spaghetti Western. He's more of my imaginary not-alive-anymore movie boyfriend. Still, my heart is with Oskar Werner. And wouldn't you know which Janus classic is up next on the docket ...