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Le quai des brumes 1938
Description: Down a foggy, desolate street to the port town of Le Havre travels Jean, an units deserter looking for other possibility to create nice on life. Fate, however, has a various plan for him, as acts of both revenge and kindness render him front-page news.
Released: 29 Oct 1939 Director: Marcel Carné Writers: Pierre Dumarchais (novel), Jacques Prévert (scenario and dialogue) Actors: Jean Gabin, Michel Simon, Michèle Morgan, Pierre Brasseur Genres: Crime, Drama, Romance, Thriller
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Le quai des brumes Reviews:

I've just seen Port of Shadows for the first time in my life, and I gotta tell I really liked it. I'm already a nice admirer of old black & white pictures, and I enjoyed The Nice Illusion as well. This one is rather various from Illusion, though from the same era and also with Jean Gabin as the quintessential Frenchman. It's hauntingly sad, quietly emotional, and even if it's a bit dated in some territories (the pathetic hood played by Brasseur) it still manages to creep up on you and leaves you absorbed with the motifs of human loneliness and the not unreasonable, but ultimately impossible human dream of happiness. So it's not a laugh-riot, and you don't leave the cinema with a satisfied feeling, but you do feel nice about having seen it. It's a masterpiece in French cinema history, Jean Gabin is ideal as the tough-as-butter soldier with a doomed soft spot for Michéle Morgan's pretty waif, and in the end all you remember is the quiet mists of Le Havre harbor, and the sense of ill-fate and lost chances. Not to mention the pretty eyes of a very young Morgan!


Was there ever a better example of Poetic Realism (no, but one just as good, Le Jour Se Leve, from the same stable)than this, crafted exquisitely by the onlie begetters of the genre, Jacques Prevert - Marcel Carne. All the ingredients are show and accounted for; low-key lighting, atmos - perm any two from drizzle, sleet, cobbles, out-of-season resorts - and two doomed lovers who come together for one Mayfly moment in the sun before it all ends in tears to the distant sound of hammers striking firing pins and the heady, pungent aroma of cordite. Did anyone, with the possible exception of Bogie, do bruised tough better than Jean Gabin and pre-Audrey Hepburn were there ever so expressive eyes as Michele Morgan brought to the party. The Prevert-Carne squad were on top of their minigame in this one which still holds up sixty years on. Purists may quibble that 'brumes' translates as mist rather than shadows but without a shadow of a doubt this is classic fare.


When I was young this is what I used to call a "bulger", the first time I saw it when 18 years old I was so impressed by the bulging murky atmosphere, and the over-riding sense of doom pervading the movie I thought it couldn't be bettered. Then I read up on Warner Bros. techniques for their greatest "atmospheric" potboilers such as The Large Sleep and realised it was, as usual, all down to saving money. LQDB is nearly fully studio-bound, therefore the fogs, darkness and even excessive cigarette smoke all came in helpful in disguising the limitations created. In this situation however the limitations are deliberate as it is the crux of the story, the elemental mist at Le Havre and Man's mental mists testing havoc with lives.Not surprisingly, plenty of erudite praise has been showered down on LQDB over the years. Essentially it remains only a entertainingly depressing adult yarn, with a straight-faced story coupled with some gloomy and gleaming but pleasing black and white photography. I think Renoir named it fascist in a patriotic outburst; for Carne to receive past the disapproving censor Gabin couldn't even be named a deserter in the movie (although his one night stand with Nelly was cheerfully depicted). Needless to say, this has probably led to some confusion over the years as to why Gabin is on the run (more like stroll) anyway! Anyway, Fascism and fascism are both dark and depressing for the majority of us so that would create LQDB a faithful representation! This was the 2nd of Carne's classic 6 consecutive films, culminating in 1945 with Les Enfants Du Paradis. To my mind the quality of this series remains unsurpassed in globe cinema - unless you can think of other director who made 6 timeless classics one after another? All subjective, of course!Nevertheless, one of my favorite films, not to be watched too often but everytime an effective antidote to the true world. Next: Hotel Du Nord.



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