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Director Marcel CarnÃ (C) and writer Jacques PrÃ (C)vert are known for their films made during and just before WWII in a style known as âpoetic realismâ?. Along with Le Jour Se LÃ¨ve (Daybreak, 1939), Le Quai Des Brumes (Port of Shadows) is typically seen as a part of a doom-laden zeitgeist that infected France before the Nazis invaded. Les Visiteurs du Soir (The Devilâ(TM)s Envoys, 1942) and Les Enfants Du Paradis (Children of Paradise, 1945, their masterpiece) were made during the Occupation. And then the zeitgeist for poetic realism was over. But Port of Shadows and Daybreak, both starring tough guy Jean Gabin, capture the mood, with their doomed love â" or love between doomed people â" depicted with poetic words and poetic images. Here, Gabin plays a soldier (also Jean) who has deserted the army and we first see him coolly hitchhiking to Le Havre, a port city on the English Channel. Seeking refuge, he follows a friendly drunk to an isolated shack where other loners congregate under the welcoming roof of âPanamaâ? (Ãdouard Delmont). There he meets Nelly (MichÃ¨le Morgan) who is hiding from her (possibly evil) guardian, Zabel (Michel Simon), and a trio of gangsters led by Lucien (Pierre Brasseur) who are also after Zabel (who has something to do with a missing man). It is love at first sight for Jean and Nelly, but we know that Jean seeks to escape France on a ship bound for Venezuela. Moreover, he has accepted civilian clothes from a painter who leaves them as he swims out to commit suicide, a bad omen if ever there were one. When he defends Nelly by slapping Lucien (an embarrassment more than anything else), we see the gears of the plot start to grind inexorably toward Jeanâ(TM)s doom. He knows it and Nelly knows it but still they love each other and still he gets on board the ship to depart. But a temporary separation instilled with hope is not to be. Such is the plot but it is really the dialogue (PrÃ (C)vert), the stylized soundstage production design (Alexandre Trauner), the gauzy foggy cinematography (Eugen SchÃ 1/4fftan), and the noir hero acting (Gabin) that seal the deal (all went on to great things). The melancholy beauty of it all cannot help but bewitch you.
Ahead of its time? Check. Laying the foundations for film noir before it was a thing? You betcha. Stuffed to the brim with tragic characters and dark plot elements? Of course!
Messy ending towards the final minutes of the film? *sigh*, I suppose nothing that looks this good on paper is ever so perfect, after all...
Watched Apr 09, 2018
A great, early Film Noir treasure. This is a poetic, romantic melodrama of two desperate and lonely people whose story flirts with bigger philosophical themes, including alienation. It is also a firmly anti-war film, quite a relevant message for 1938. The film's intriguing, stifling atmosphere of fog and shadows is masterful. Gabin and Morgan are radiant and mesmerizing.
A striking & slick French Classic that follows the journey of deserted soldier played perfectly by Jean Gabin, who finds himself at a bar at the end of the pier at Le Havre.
Filled with atmosphere & much fog this film had terrific characters that filled this unusual isolated world.
Things really heat up when the soldier meets the dame, a terrific romance that is not conventional & no doubt a major inspiration & influence for Casablanca in 1943.
This is probably an example of a perfect french moving picture.Poetic realism it is.It is fascinating to observe rich and intellectual dialogues against the backgournd of noir settings, that is sleazy places where you expet to see hoodlums, vagabonds to dwell. And yet you are surprised to find these vagabonds have deep knowledge of life and thoughts to share.
You can go only so far... before your at the Port ov Shadows. With its luminous shadows of choices, dripping the heaven of hopelessness. Great characterisation giving this movie the truth of splendour. The movie shows that all the cunts standing in your way from realising your dreams must be shackled or eliminated, before they do you in.
Port of Shadows is French proto-noir. The film is put together nicely in terms of shooting and vibe; the main characters have an odd but good chemistry. I agree with other reviewers that the plot is a bit lacking and the film is strangely episodic but nonetheless uprate it on account of it satisfying my tastes (French, noir).
Love is the only hope for people who, paradoxically seek freedom in their already predestined lives. An elegy with haunting, dreamlike atmosphere.
If you resist the moodiness of the whole thing, it becomes apparent that the melodramatic storyline and thinly-drawn, unlikable characters just can't stand up on their own. Yes, some consider it a masterpiece and it may just be an issue of preference, but "Port of Shadows" had me rolling my eyes and checking my watch on multiple occasions. Regardless, its stylistic, ideological, and technical influence is undeniable.
I was enthralled by this French proto noir with its fabulous foggy atmosphere underscoring the central themes of the storyline and the excellent direction of a relatively simple story told so incredibly well. The cast are also impressive, most notably Jean Gabin. Highly recommended!