Marcel Carné directs this 1930s drama starring Jean Gabin and Michèle Morgan. Army deserter Jean (Gabin) pitches up in Le Havre, looking for a new identity and passage to foreign parts. His progress is halted when he falls in love with Nelly (Morgan), an idealistic 17-year-old who finds herself oppressed by her supposed protector, Zabel (Michel Simon), and hoodlum Lucien (Pierre Brasseur). Jean attempts to rescue Nelly from their grasp but will it mean missing his own chance at freedom?
a fantastic, moody drama. a french soldier awol goes to a port to take a ship to escape his life. he runs into a local gangster, a girl and her guardian. terrific acting and superbly gloomy photography. you can smell the sea as well as the mood a true classic
Director Marcel Carne, here in just pre-war 1938, made many notable films but for many World Cinema devotees, he is an unknown, or in my case, a newcomer. His Les Enfants de Paradis (1946) is one of the most enchanting and beautiful of all French films, from any period and remains one of my all-time favourites.
However, I find his feature films with Jean Gabin a rather jagged little pill. In both his later Le Jour Se Leve and here, Gabin plays rather unlikeable lead roles and I find him difficult to warm to. Though in this case, assisted by screenwriter Jacques Prévert, as army deserter "Jean", he certainly is a complex fellow, whose psyche snaps back and fore as his bewildered despondency on life puts up barriers and communication to others.
There's a visual semblance in Gabin of a cross between Spencer Tracey and James Cagney (to my eyes) and also almost in their usual characters - the caring, humane Tracey and the snarling Cagney. Michelle Morgan plays the dark and beautiful Nelly and the two floating into love seems as fleeting and ephemeral as the shifting mists of the title - translated as 'Port Of Shadows'.
That Port is Le Havre and the evocative cinematography is the film's finest feature, a real mood-piece that eschews a clammy emptiness. The tonal range of Eugen Schüfftan's black & white camerawork is superb and is fully realised by this digital restoration, without blemish or flaw.
The dog that tags on is a nice touch and suits Gabin's character - restless, looking for both company and opportunity but I'm afraid I couldn't settle with the false-bearded Michel Simon, with that hair-piece visibly having gaps in it. A small point to moan about, if one is totally content with the rest of the film but when one isn't totally, these little things stick out like a sore thumb and become annoying.
There is no doubt that Le Quai des Brumes is a very good film, that is loved by many and this release is the one to get, unless one goes for the blu-ray, of course. That it didn't totally do "it" for me is down to personal choice, though.Read more ›
As the film opens, we see Jean (Gabin), an army deserter, traveling down a desolate, fog-bound, tree lined road to the port city of LeHavre. The protocol of French cinema between the world wars was supposed to be "poetic realism," but, frankly, this magnificent long opening shot looks more like German expressionism to me, as do the shots of "Panama's" shack, where Jean takes refuge, on an empty beach that looks a lot like the end of the world. Jean must leave metropolitan France - that's what he's doing in Le Havre, but at Panama's, he meets the gorgeous 17-year old Nelly, played by the everlastingly beautiful, high cheek-boned, Michele Morgan (Passage To Marseilles  [VHS]). And he finds it very difficult to leave her. Following on the deaths of her parents, Nelly has found herself the ward of Zabel, played by Michel Simon,(Criterion Coll: Boudu Saved From Drowning (Sub) [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]),a successful shopkeeper and vendor of souvenirs of the town, who also loves her, and yearns for her charms. Conflict ensues, of course, and Jean finds that no good deed of his goes unpunished, as he unwittingly, unwillingly, becomes front-page news in the town. The acting is fine, the company rounded out by a passel of one-named actors, presumably from the Comedie Francaise.
The photography is marvelously detailed and moody; the original score by Maurice Jaubert adds greatly to the atmosphere of the film, and Nelly is appropriately dressed in a wardrobe by the unaccredited Coco Chanel. Carne, of course, managed to make "Les Enfants" during the World War II German Occupation of France: it hints at many things that would have angered the German censors, had they realized the undertones were there. And Gabin? Of working class birth - born in Montmartre, Paris, he had a particular gift for playing the working class anti-hero, the soft-hearted tough guy. A deservedly enduring film and a must-see.Read more ›