Le jour se léve (1939)

19 03 2008

Obviously, there are some considerably dated aspects that sort of taint my overall enjoyment of this film, but surprisingly, I actually think it’s one of the best movies I’ve watched as of late. It’s personal and honest, but still has a slightly detached observational quality to it. The depth of one single character is more akin to films like The Browny Bunny or I Stand Alone. It puts us into the mind of a mind, and depicts all the complex craziness that goes on inside. In other words, it’s really amazing.

The opening intertitles introduce the film perfectly: “a man sits in his room and recounts the moment leading up to becoming a murderer.” The man is François and he is quiet, reserved, but generally viewed as a nice guy by the other tenants. One day he meets a flourist named Françoise and immediately falls in love with her. Their relationship goes well, but one night François follows her and sees her interest in a dog trainer named Valentin. Around the same time, he meets Clara, a woman who is as fed up and disappointed with life as François is. They begin an affair, but François maintains his love for Françoise, who we are told, is actually Valentin’s daughter. Valentin explains that he wants her because she is his daughter and he has her best interest in mind.

That “old-fashioned” aesthetic is almost completely intact, unfortunately. To explain what I don’t like about it would launch me into a thesis about my general taste in film so in short, I don’t like that “glow” look and I don’t like fades and dissolves. Both of these are quite minor, though, because generally the compositions here are quite nice. Surely, not as innovative as what some Japanese directors were doing at the time, but good none the less.

The film’s strength don’t lie in technical details, though, but more in it’s ability to emerse the audience in a single person’s thoughts. By using what appears to be mystery plot devices, Carne crafts a powerful portrait of a tortured soul’s final moments on planet earth. The flashback and ellipses aren’t meant to create suspense, but instead provide a depth to a character that was unthought of at the time period. In fact, these narrative “devices” are probably more like the ones that Hong Sang-Soo sometimes uses. Sequences overlap, giving us a new context to everything we knew before. The film’s final sequence is easily one of the bleakest of all time and yet composed with such beauty. This may sound condescending, but it’s a testament to Carne’s compassion for his protagonist. A perfect description of the world he crafts, ugly, but with a certain admiration.

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23 07 2008
The Long Night (1947) « Cinema Talk

[…] Night (1947) 23 07 2008 Pretty much just an American-ized version of Marcel Carne’s Le jour se léve, which is more or less, a very good thing. While I can’t give the film any points for […]

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