Enjoyable minor Carne
By a customer
, 14 Aug 2009
Hardly the hymn to Parisian life that the title suggests (and you will only hear the title song sung by Yves Montand if you watch the trailer) this is a low-key but quite absorbing drama set in one of the less fashionable quarters of the French capital.
Marcel Carne was thoroughly familiar with the boxing shows of the Central Boxing Club (the Paris equivalent of London's York Hall) and has faithfully captured the slightly seedy atmosphere of the boxing clubs and training gyms where the story unfurls.
As a director he never again attained the heights of the early Forties when he worked with Jacques Prevert on masterpieces like 'Les Visiteurs du Soir' and 'Les Enfants du Paradis', and this effort in 1954 is definitely minor Carne and was not released outside France at the time.
However it has much to recommend it: Jean Gabin (not one of my favourite actors) gives a marvellous performance as Victor, the ex-boxer trainer of the young hopeful, Andre. And Arletty looking vastly different from her enigmatic Garance in 'Les Enfants du Paradis' is equally striking as his disappointed wife. The dialogue is true to life and convincing.
The weaknesses lie with the casting of the younger leads. Roland Lesaffre was a protege and close friend of Carne, and also apparently the lightweight champion of the French Navy, but is too actorish and neither young enough or quite the right type to play the ex-railway worker boxer, and Marie Daems (the wife of Francois Perier) parachuted in at the last moment to play the society girl, Corinne, also fails to hit quite the right note, thereby forfeiting any sympathy one might have for the character.
There is a comic turn by Jean Paredes as a hyper fashion designer, and an appearance by Folco Lulli ( one of the drivers in Clouzot's 'La Salaire de la Peur') as a neighbour.
Overall, though,an enjoyable drama, and any film by Carne is worth watching - even in his decline.
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