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Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
Le Jour Se Leve [DVD] [1939]
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on 6 September 2010
There are certain films (Pepe le Moko, the Marius trilogy, Le Crime du M. Lange, Le Quai des Brumes) that could only have been made at a certain time and in a certain place - France in the 1930's. "Jour" is one of them. It has all the ingredients that made certain French films of the epoch so very special - breathtakingly beautiful photography, a deceptively simple plot, wonderful acting and that particular cinematic flair, made up of an admixture of elements such as filmic elan, note-perfect acting and understated scripting, that only the French were capable of, and which no-one has even come close to since.
The plot, on the face of it, is simple. Man shoots other man for unknown reasons and then waits, holed up in a bedsit, for the Police to come at daybreak and seal his fate. He reviews the events that have led to this impasse. As in all the best films, things aren't what they initially appear to be, and the actions, feelings and motivations of the various characters unfold as the film progresses, sometimes quite surprisingly.
Jean Gabin puts in what is arguably his finest performance. Jules Berry is a suitably lubricious and plausible villain, while Arletty is spot-on as the world-weary woman who's been round the block of life a few times too many.
If you're unacquainted with the magic of French films of this period and want to give it a try, you won't go far wrong with this one.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 December 2011
Marcel Carne's 1939 film Le Jour Se Leve (or Daybreak in English) is a classic, claustrophobic drama, and is as bleak as his Les Enfants du Paradis is uplifting. This film, along with Les Enfants, and other Carne productions Le Quai des Brumes, Hotel du Nord and Drole de Drame, fully justify Carne's position as France's leading film-maker of this era (along with Jean Renoir). Le Jour se Leve was scripted by Jacques Prevert, Carne's regular screenwriter, who also penned Les Enfants, Drole de Drame and Le Quai des Brumes.

The film stars the inestimable Jean Gabin as Francois, a foundry worker who falls for flower shop worker Francoise (Jacqueline Laurent), only to discover that Francoise is already attracted to theatrical performer Valentin (brilliantly played by Jules Berry). At the same time Francois has also met, and developed a mutual attraction with Valentin's sidekick Clara (played by Arletty), albeit this does not deflect Francois from his true object of desire, Francoise. Following a number of meetings and confrontations between Francois and Valentin, eventually Francois' frustration and anger erupts as he shoots Valentin dead. The police surround Francois in his appartment, eventually driving him to suicide.

The film has elements of film noir and poetic realism, and the flashback narration by Francois is reminiscent of that in the ultimate film noir, Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity. Carne's pacing of the film is slow, but builds an effective and atmospheric tale of the working man, fed up with his lot in his mundane job, yearning for romance and glamour, finally being pushed too far and reaching his breaking point with tragic consequences. The sequences of Gabin chain-smoking in his appartment, then staring into the camera (or into space) before throwing a chair through the mirror into which he cannot bear to look any longer capture his mood of despair perfectly.

Gabin is (as ever) superlative, reprising his stock-in-trade role as the doomed hero, displaying in abundance his trademark acting traits of calm assuredness, confidence, cockiness, frustration, vulnerability and, eventually, anger and pathos - qualities he has repeatedly demonstrated in other classic films such as La Grande Illusion, Pepe Le Moko, Le Quai des Brumes, La Bete Humaine and La Belle Equipe. Arletty is also superb, giving another sterling performance as the spurned lover, and Jules Berry is excellent as Valentin, the taunting competitor lover to Gabin's Francois, and providing a brilliant counterpoint to Gabin during the clmactic scene where Francois is finally driven to commit murder in the name of love.

A near perfect 90-minute film which closes with a magnificant operatic final scene, reminiscent (musically and visually) of the final scene from the opera Tosca.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 16 August 2010
"Le Jour Se Leve," ("Daybreak") (1939), a bleak black and white crime drama, romance/thriller, is considered one of the great classics of the French cinema. It was directed by the legendary Marcel Carne (Les Enfants Du Paradis [DVD] [1945] (THE CHILDREN OF PARADISE); the original story was by the respected Jacques Viot; the script, by Jacques Prevert, with whom the greatest of French directors often worked.

It stars the incomparable Jean Gabin (La Grande Illusion - Special Edition [DVD] [1937]) as foundry worker Francois, who kills the sleazy, sadistic, womanizing dog act performer Valentin (Jules Berry) to help the young florist he loves, Francoise, escape from Valentin's clutches. Francois then retreats to his furnished room, reflecting on the events that drove him to murder, including his unromantic sexual affair with Valentin's former stage assistant, Clara, played by the ever-beauteous Arletty(Les Enfants Du Paradis [DVD] [1945]), as he waits for the police to renew their assault on him at daybreak.

Well, in outline, it does sound bleak, doesn't it, and the material is. Yet, such is the magic of Carne's vision, and Gabin's muscular acting, that it is not tedious, though you might expect it would be. Much of the tale is told in flashback, as Carne delivers a film of great lyrical beauty, widely considered a monument to the French between-the-wars film school of "poetic realism," though a lot of it looks more like German Expressionism to me. It gives us a very accurate portrait of working class life as it was lived at the time: Gabin as Francois humorously delivers several lines on the unhealthiness of the various factory environments in which he has worked: he knows very well that they kill their employees. And Gabin was certainly one of the cinema world's greatest working class anti-heroes. He had just played one for Carne in the previous year on Port of Shadows (Le Quai des brumes) [All Region] [import] another bleak film, though not quite as bleak as this one, and it's even more famous than this one, then and now. Who was Gabin, if you don't know? Of real Parisian working class origins, French cinema's precursor to Humphrey Bogart (although Bogart was of more patrician family), Gabin played the quintessential soft-hearted tough guy in many movies, perhaps his best-known today being the series of films made of Simenon's Inspector Maigret books. A stunning film, 93 minutes long, and not a second wasted.
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on 7 May 2017
What an amazing film, to the heart, joy, sad and life of that time, Jean Gabin brilliant actor and the atmosphere prefect.
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on 21 March 2014
I expected the picture to be only average quality in a film of this age but the sound was very poor and at times I could not hear it at all. It was also very uneven. It has English subtitles but I wanted to hear the French.
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on 29 October 2010
No disagreement with the reviews already listed about the high quaiity of this film. But be warned that the Optimum World DVD transfer is not very good. Picture is grainy and muddy in many places. One reviewer says that the Criterion print is good. I haven't seen it, but it ought to be better than this one.
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on 16 January 2016
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on 26 June 2015
Good film. A classic
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on 22 October 2014
France in a depressing phase... as it is now?
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on 24 October 2010
I enjoy French films and and was looking to renew my acquaintance with films that as a teenager or young adult I had seen or heard about. Le jour se leve does not disappoint. The build-up to its conclusion is well done; the characterisation is credible; the cimenatic approach suits the pace and character of the film.
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