THE WALLS OF MALAPAGA (René Clément, 1948)

Jointly from France and Italy, a key work of postwar European psychology, René Clément’s Au-delà des grilles (literally, Beyond the Gates), in Italy known as Le mura di Malapaga, beautifully fleshes out a highly melodramatic scheme of past, present and future in order to portray, combinately, European trauma and uncertainty. It won the Oscar as […]

TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI (Jacques Becker, 1953)

Jean Gabin (best actor, Venice) is superb as Max, an aging gangster in the Montmartre district of Paris, who has convinced himself, at least, that he wishes to retire, in Jacques Becker’s razor-sharp, electrifying, ultimately wistful film noir of gangland warfare, Touchez pas au grisbi (Hands Off the Loot!). Gabin’s final touch of secret gaiety […]

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT (Georges Lampin, 1956)

Although it isn’t great like Aleksandr Sokurov’s film drawn from Dostoievski’s novel Crime and Punishment, Whispering Pages (1993), or even as dramatically striking as Pierre Chenal’s stripped-down 1935 Crime et châtiment, Georges Lampin’s modern update/Frenchification doesn’t deserve the oblivion into which it has mostly passed. For some of us, after all, it is the film […]

PORT OF SHADOWS (Marcel Carné, 1938)

If nothing else, scenarist Jacques Prévert and filmmaker Marcel Carné’s Quai des brûmes is momentous for launching two great movements in cinema: in France, poetic realism; in the U.S., film noir, which John Huston three years later invented by hardboiling poetic realism for The Maltese Falcon. Moreover, Carné’s film gets better with each fresh viewing. […]