Friday, February 12, 2016

Des gens sans importance

1956, France, directed by Henri Verneuil

A compelling, moody picture, from Henri Verneuil, one of the strongest directors to work with Gabin in the later period (the actor made plenty of weak films, but the Gabin-Verneuil pairing was a notable success, also yielding Un Singe en hiver and Le Président). Gabin is at the limits of the taciturn here, somehow managing to navigate life largely surrounded by silence despite his work and garrulous family. Indeed, on a number of occasions he refers to the (pleasing?) silence of his job, driving across France in a series of apparently interminable journeys (Verneuil's ability to convey the monotony without boring the audience is quite the trick -- reminded me, perhaps incongruously, of Raymond Bernard's extended dramatization of the pounding of artillery in Les Croix de bois). The film also struck me as being especially modern in the sense that it anticipates the nouvelle vague -- location shooting, characters who are not always admirable, a great deal of sensitivity to tone, even if structurally there's no innovation.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States