Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Alternate title: Daybreak
France, 1939. Productions Sigma. Original scenario by Jacques Viot, dialogue by Jacques Prevert. Cinematography by Philippe Agostini, Andre Bac, Albert Viguier. Produced by Jean-Pierre Frogerais. Music by Maurice Jaubert. Production Design by Alexandre Trauner. Costume Design by Boris Bilinsky. Film Editing by Rene Le Haneff.
A shot is heard, a man stumbles out an apartment door and falls dead down a flight of stairs; the neighbours are upset, the police arrive and pretty soon the building is surrounded while the man we presume is the killer (Jean Gabin) holes up in his room and recalls the days that led to the crime. We flash back to when he first encounters a beautiful young woman and falls madly in love with her, their romance taking him away from his usual good time gal (Arletty), but trouble arrives when a shady father figure manages to convince his lady love to accept his patronage. Beautifully shot by Marcel Carne, this romantic, surprisingly sexy film hasn’t been fully served by time (I can see why it was a big deal then and I can see why it’s less of one now), but it still looks great and the cast is fantastic. The framing narrative, having the majority of the action take place in a flashback, was so innovative for its time that the terrified producers made sure that a title card was projected before the beginning to explain what the audience was about to see.