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Le Jour Se Leve - 75th Anniversary Edition  [Blu-ray]
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Marcel Carné directs this classic French romantic drama starring Jean Gabin. François (Gabin), a factory worker, has love affairs with a flower girl, Françoise (Jacqueline Laurent), and a performer, Clara (Arletty), both of whom have been involved with seedy, older man Valentin (Jules Berry). When the two men come face-to-face a jealous François ends up killing Valentin. As the police close in on him, François barricades himself in a small room, going over the events which led him into such desperate straits.
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The story is a sad one but gripping throughout. The sombre mood reflects the era in which the film was made, shortly before WWII and the Nazi occupation of France. It's interesting to see, among the disc's extras, which scenes the Vichy government chose to cut. The extras also include a short documentary about the painstaking restoration process and a very long one covering just about anything you might want to know about Marcel Carné, Jacques Prévert, all the main actors and the film's place in cinema history. It's excellent, but be warned, it's longer than the film itself!
was a rumour that Hollywood had destroyed all copies. I have not been disappointed.....
Far more than a noir thriller, the economical deftly deployed flashback structure was a visionary achievement from Carné, elevating the film’s winding, partially obscured motives to a gripping centrepiece that pulls us through the ebb and flow of François’s tragic journey to daybreak. An infatuation with a beautiful young florist (Jacqueline Laurent) is revealed, the subsequent courting and sweet nothings pierced by the intentions of the pompous dog-dancing entertainer Valentin (Jules Barry). A dismissal that dejectedly leads him into the arms of Valentin’s sultry assistant Clara (Arletty) – a supposed affair that propels François towards his ruinous downfall amongst smoke and bullets. Roaming between past and present Carné permits the story to take shape at its own pace, favouring a realist tone that builds François’s character with every elegantly scripted scene.
With one twinkling eye, and one of deepest sadness, Gablin cuts a protagonist of considerable conflicted depth. A soft hearted romantic. A callused handed working man. Stung by love, and stung by the misery of life – his fate is written in relentless routine and preordained tragedy. It is with this poetic allegory for the life of the blue collar stiff that Carné bathes the entire picture – culminating in a stunning closing shot that rivals any in cinematic history for its composition, lingering pathos and sheer tragic beauty.
“People in love are said to be more alive than others.”
Receiving an immaculately restored reissue in celebration of its 75th anniversary, what is perhaps most staggering is how fresh and current its themes feel. Sure, the monochromatic shadows cut dramatically, the focus blurs into vaseline soft vignettes, and the performances have that pinched quality of the era – but here is a film about something; forgoing melodrama and convention it powers beyond thrills to comment on the world of its setting. Class war, the macabre media fascination with death, rash police action in urban Paris – Le Jour Se Lève hasn’t aged a day.
Poetic realism of the highest order, Marcel Carné’s classic will be as relevant and gut wrenching in a further 75 years. There will always be sorrow at daybreak for those at the bottom. Stepped on, stepped over and broken hearted – François is all three.
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