Les Portes de la nuit (1946)

Article 2286 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-28-2007
Posting Date: 11-15-2007
Directed by Marcel Carne
Featuring Pierre Brasseur, Serge Reggiani, Yves Montaud

In post-war France, a mysterious tramp who claims to be Destiny predicts that one man (Jean Diego) will meet and fall in love with a beautiful women, and predicts another man (Guy Senechal) will die a horrible death. As it turns out, their paths are intertwined; the beautiful woman is married and also a sister to Guy, and Guy turned over Jean’s best friend to the Gestapo during the war. From there, the presence of the tramp guides them to their respective fates.

I knew full well that I wasn’t going to be seeing a subtitled version of the movie when I got this one from a French website, so I took a little time to find some simple plot descriptions to help me along. Along with one I found, I discovered the sad history of the movie itself; it was an incredibly expensive one for France in its time, it was originally supposed to star Jean Gabin and Marlene Dietrich and was written for them, but Dietrich backed out and Gabin proved so demanding that he was replaced by the then unknown Yves Montaud. The movie was a critical and commercial flop, as it touched on certain subjects that were highly sensitive to Frenchmen in that era. That time is now gone, and the movie is ready for reevaluation.

Nevertheless, since I don’t understand French, I certainly can’t be the one to do so here. Nevertheless, there were some things that I really liked. One is the presence of Jean Vilar as the tramp, who does more than predict; he reappears in scene after scene, subtly guiding the characters to their respective fates; he has a nice intense presence. Certain scenes stand out; the scene where Jean Diego first discovers that the woman he loves is married, the fight between Guy and Jean in the chicken coop, and the rest of the movie from the moment that Guy hands the gun to the husband in the hope that he will kill Jean. I can only hope they subtitle it and release it here so I can get the full impact of it.



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