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Essential Art House: Le Jour Se Leve

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 14 reviews
39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Bruised People, Poetic Realism, Doomed Love July 29 2009
By Gerard D. Launay - Published on
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 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.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Le Jour se Leve April 8 2000
By Michael Todd - Published on
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.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Carne's Craft, Gabin's Muscular Acting Aug. 17 2010
By Stephanie De Pue - Published on
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.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Groundbreaking movie Oct. 29 2006
By Randy Keehn - Published on
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Spellbinding... Oct. 3 2011
By Andrew Ellington - Published on
Format: DVD
Sharp and intense, `Le Jour se Leve' is a magnificent film from one of the very best years in cinema; 1939. Staring the impressive Jean Gabin, the film centers around a man who has just committed a murder. Locked in his apartment, this man (named Francois) contemplates the events that led him to such an act and the people he met along the way. Gabin is sensational as Francois. He had such an impressive look (he was very handsome and commanding in his presence), and Gabin was able to use his statuesque features to create an aura that consumed the audience. He does so here as well, perfectly embodying the emotional complexities that slowly layer themselves upon Francois. The script is tightly woven and delivers the intended chills and thrills and leaves the audience with an emotionally charged finale that will rest on your minds for some time after the close of the film. Outside of the obvious plot point (the murder), there is intense character development here, beautifully composing people who are searching for fulfillment in places that elude them. French cinema is certainly some of the best out there, and `Le Jour se Leve' is further proof to that claim!