Saturday, 1 September 2012

Le Jour se Leve (1939)

-Og ved daggry
I have not really decided if I like ”Le Jour se Leve”. It is sort of a French film noir. Dark, brooding, fatalistic, but also beautiful and sensitive.  It is not a big story, but it is well told and even though this is not a classic happy-end movie, the conclusion is satisfying, given the mood of the movie.

Jean Gabin, the Brad Pitt of late thirties French cinema, is our working class hero, Francois, who has shot another man. That happens within the first 2 minutes of the film. The rest is the story of why he did that, told in a series of flashbacks.

Francois has barricaded himself in his little apartment while the police are waiting for daybreak to storm the place. While waiting Francois is utterly depressed and wonders why it got to be this way.

He met a girl, Francoise, who is innocence incarnate, and he loves her dearly. Yet, she has something going on the side. When he follows her it turns out she is involved with an animal trainer in a show. On the same evening the animal trainer’s female assistant quits her job and literally throws herself into the arms of Francois. Clara is the opposite of Francoise. She is dark, disillusioned and very sensual. No wonder that Francois in his disappointment accepts Clara instead of Francoise.

This is when it starts getting complicated. The animal trainer Valentin cannot let any of them in peace. He wants to get Clara back, he has a grip on Francoise and he has something strange going on with Francois and just will not leave him alone. He claims he is the father of Francoise and in this function insinuate himself into their life. When that story blows he shows up in Francois’s apartment with a gun and talks about how he corrupts women, what he does to them and what they let him do to them. He is a certified pain in the ass and eventually Francois grabs the gun and shoots him.

Something about what Valentin has been telling him has depressed him deeply, beyond the fact that he has just killed a guy, and I am afraid I did not really catch what it is. The film would like to be an allegory of the woes of the worker in depression time France, so that when Francois yells that there is no hope then it is for the French worker there is no hope. Well, I sort of got that from The Book. From the film itself it is difficult to see that parallel, except for the general hopelessness of the film. Exactly what the connection between an animal trainer humping innocent women and unemployment and lack of social benefits are I really do not know. To me it seems a bit dramatic to shoot the guy just for being annoying and I would also think that it should be the killing rather than all the events that led up to it that should cause despair, but I suppose there is logic to it somewhere.

As it is “Le Jour se Leve” is more a mental state, a condition you are brought into and that feeling is rather intense. So my conflict is basically form and atmosphere up against an internal logic I am not getting. Maybe when I fully understand it I will decide to like it. Until then… I am undecided.

A funny detail: When Valentin as the mysterious murder victim falls down the stairs in the beginning, he is shot in the chest, he falls in a bad way and is more or less dead as the lands, yet we see him hurt his hand on his way down and visibly wince. Somehow he probably has other things on his mind than pain in his hand. It is small mistake, but almost set the stage for an entirely different sort of film.      


  1. I'm not a huge fan of this. The story is somewhat interesting, but Francois' fascination with Francoise irritates me to no end. Clara (Arletty) is the most compelling part of the film. Daybreak is considered the greatest example of poetic realism on film--not by me, but critics--hence why you can't really figure out why Francois really killed Valentin.

    1. That is true. Is it arty or annoying when essential details are kept obscure or even defies logic? I do not know. My biggest problem is that I cannot really see what Francois's big problem is.