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Essential Art House: Le Jour Se Leve

Jean Gabin , Jacqueline Laurent , Marcel Carné    Unrated   DVD

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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bruised People, Poetic Realism, Doomed Love July 29 2009
By Gerard D. Launay - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
There is always more beneath the surface of a Marcel Carne film. It's all in the details such as the shots of a one-eared teddy bear in the attic reflecting the hurt of the man about to be terrorized by the police. This movie - a precursor of film noir - begins almost at the end when an honest laborer, beaten down by the system, kills another man out of passion and has to hide in an attic until the police finally break down the door..at daybreak. (French law provided that the police could not enter until dawn). The story of the events leading to this dark ending is told in flashback. There is an eerie sense of dread everywhere. For example the hero (or shall I say anti-hero) works as a sandblaster in a factory and when he works, he is sealed in a cold suit of metal...all the while dark, demonic shadows abound or sulfurous fumes escape. In the same scene, a flower girl arrives but loses the freshness of her plants because of the smoke.

Made in 1939, the film is also a warning to France which was on the eve of war with Fascist Germany and itself holed itself up - in isolation - until the inevitable disaster. (The Vichy government which collaborated with the Nazis forbade the showing of the film0.

As in so many of the great Marcel Carne films, the director is obsessed with doomed love. In those dark, edgy days leading up to the war, it must have seemed to Marcel Carne that happiness, while precious, is short lived - always on the verge of being snuffed out callously.

I cannot fault the pitch perfect, sad performance of Jean Gabin. Watch his eyes as he awaits his inevitable doom. Gabin - as Francois - portrays a sympathetic, bruised man. He loves an orphan perhaps because he himself was an orphan.

Of all Marcel Carne films, "Le Jour se Leve" is his most compelling metaphor for the impending disaster awaiting France. Poetic realism indeed.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Le Jour se Leve April 8 2000
By Michael Todd - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
A very bleak but marvelous film. Jean Gabin is always watchable but this is a fantastic performance, beautiful and tragic. My one problem with this particular copy of the film is that the quality is not great and the subtitles do not translate every line, or even every other line. It has inspired me to brush up on my French, but when you buy a film with subtitles you expect at least most of the dialogue to be subtitled. A real shame.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Groundbreaking movie Oct. 29 2006
By Randy Keehn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
In 1952, "Sight and Sound" presented their first Top Ten poll of the best movies of all time. Coming in a tie for 7th place was "Le Jour se Leve". As the 20th Century drew to a close, movie fans were given a treat in the form of the book "The New York Times Guide to the 1000 Best Movies ever Made". The book omitted movies from the silent era but was quite receptive to foreign-language films. Yet the book did not list "Le Jour se Leve" as one of it's top 1000 films. How does a movie go from top 10 to missing inclusion in the top 1000? Perhaps "Le Jour se Leve" cam claim the title of being, simultaneously, the most over-rated and under-rated movie of all time. Personally, I liked the movie when I saw it last night but I debated about giving it a 5 Star rating.

"Le Jour se Leve" is the story of a murder that strips away any semblance of suspense by giving the audience the victim and the murderer in the opening scene. It doesn't take much longer to clarify the motive as well. The movie's greatness is telling a love story within the context of our knowing its' extreme outcome from the start. This approach gives the audience a unique focus on each and every step of the developing romances as the films goes through a number of flashbacks. The main character is an easy-going laborer who stumbles into a relationship with a young woman. There is another man and that leads to another woman all of which we pickup on in successive flashbacks. There are a couple of minor twists that we don't see coming but the movie is very up-front with the plot.

"Le Jour se Leve" emerges into an intense romantic drama that develops the main characters in a method of excellance that was the likely reason for its' "Sight and Sound" Top Ten rating. The characters are of varying complexity and the talented cast, led by Jean Gabin, is outstanding. The direction by Marcel Carne is the key to the whole film. I could not recall a scene that didn't add to the movie's impact. This movie suffers from the key to its' own success; its' predictability. Once I understood that, I was able to appreciate its' excellence but I can't fault anyone who thought otherwise. "Le Jour se Leve" doesn't make my Top Ten but it certainly makes the top 1000 with plenty of room to spare.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Carne's Craft, Gabin's Muscular Acting Aug. 17 2010
By Stephanie De Pue - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
"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 Children of Paradise ( Les Enfants du paradis ) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.0 Import - Australia ]]] ); 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 (Grand Illusion - Criterion Collection) 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(Children of Paradise - Criterion Collection), 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 - Criterion Collection, another bleak film, though not quite as bleak as this one that is 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.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When "Day" Is Done July 30 2006
By Alex Udvary - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
As I watch the films of Marcel Carne I sit there and I'm amazed. How could someone be so blessed with talent? How do some people become so fortunate?

Carne is without question one of the greatest filmmakers that ever lived. I've only seen a small handful of his films, but, I don't need to see that much to recognize his genuis. Both of his films "Children of Paradise" and "Port of Shadows" rank among my all time favorite films. And "Daybreak" is just as good.

"Daybreak" actually has something in common with "Children of Paradise". Both films are anti-war parables. In fact, I think "Daybreak" does a better job of presenting its views.

Francois (Jean Gabin) has just killed a man, Valentin (Jules Berry) in a crime of passion. Both men were in love with Francoise (Jacqueline Laurent). The film then takes place in flashbacks as we see how Francois and Francoise meet and eventually fall in love. We also learn how Francois and Valentine meet and what leads to Valentine's ultimate faith.

After killing the man Francois locks himself in his room so the police cannot get him. He has now isolated himself from the world. At this point I should point out the film was made in 1939. World War 2 was on the horizon. Supposedly this film was released before the war started, but, people of Europe knew war was on the way.

When we look at the film from this context "Daybreak" is more than a story of doomed love. The film argues evil is on the way and in a world filled with hate and violence there is no room for love. And without love, we cannot survive. Lets also remember America did not enter the war at the beginning. Does Francois' action of isolationism reflect this country's stance on the war?

The movie was based on a story by Jacques Viot and written by Jacques Prevent, who also worked on "Children of Paradise". Prevent and Carne were quite a team. Their work together dwells deep into the conscience of the times. These films; "Port of Shadows", "Children of Paradise" and this film, are making social arguments in the most subtle of way but by the time the film is over, the effect is not only powerful but lasting.

Marcel Carne's films seem to be difficult to find in this country. I'm going to search though. With three movies he has turned me into a strong, devoted fan of his work. If you haven't seen any of his films I strongly suggest you do. And it doesn't matter where you start. Watch whatever you can find from him. In the end you'll realize, as I have, Carne is a master.

Bottom-line: A strong anti-war film that deserves to be compared to Carne's "Children of Paradise". Both films dwell deep into the public's conscience of the world around them. A powerful film!

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