XL Popcorn – Le Jour Se Lève

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 424/1007Title: Le Jour Se Lève (Daybreak)
Director: Marcel Carné
Year: 1939
Country: France

Le Jour Se Lève  is one of those films where it is an absolute miracle that it is still around today. In a similar way to Gaslight, an American studio decided that wanted to remake Le Jour Se Lève  in 1947 and went on to try and destroy every known reel of the original. This film was considered lost for the best part of a decade until it showed up again in the 1950s. Not an uncommon practice at the time, which is just despicable.

Still,  Le Jour Se Lève managed to survive and for that cinema history remains all the richer. Interesting for the time is the extensive use of flashbacks where they have chosen not to signpost what time we are in. Like most viewers nowadays the film-makers expected you to understand that whenever there was a dissolve that was cue enough that we were switching time periods. Due to the disclaimer at the beginning indicating that we were going to be watching the past and present at different intervals I am guessing that this was one of the first times this had been attempted without inter-titles. Always interesting to watch the evolution of this medium.

The story of this is actually fairly simple, we enter on man having just been shot and is discovered by a blind resident of the apartment building. The murderer (Jean Gabin) barricades himself in his small apartment and we find out how this man, that everyone speaks well of, came to become a murderer. It is your classic story of love and jealousy with the French twist that people are kinda aware of infidelity happening and more-or-less accepting it as a fact of life. This is rather strange to me, but then again the murdered party is a dog-training vaudeville act who is a pathological liar so all bets are off.

The reason why he killed the man is, in the end, immaterial since it becomes fairly obvious how things are going to play out. The more interesting thing are him, sat alone in his flat. It’s the way he clutches for survival despite being shot at through the door and from the building across the street and how he rejects the support of the crowd below him. He is someone who has been broken irreparably by the killing of another (somewhat toxic) person in a crime of passion. In the end, like with many films, there is no chance at a positive ending due to how things are progressing… the end is unavoidable and, somehow, remains tragic without succumbing to melodrama.

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