While 1937 boasted with three greatest films of all time, “La Grand illusion”, “Pépé le Moko” and “Snow white and the seven dwarfs”, 1938 could not match so. Despite Sergei Eisenstein’s “Alexander Nevsky”, Alfred Hitchcock’s “The lady vanishes”, and quite a few other films, some on the greatest films lists or awards winners such as “Pygmalion”, “You can’t take it with you”, “Olympia”, and “Jezebel”, none were quite original, technical masterpiece or having had any impact on other films. But a year later in 1939, when the World War II breaks out in Europe, quite a few great films appear on the silver screen that “Le jour se lève” (“Day Break”) is one. This classic needs to be remembered and reviewed once again, particularly since it was not fairly appreciated like its predecessor “Pépé le Moko” both from France, and played by Jean Gabin.
While color films were already in trend, the film was made in black and white that added to its thrilling and mystery murder poetic realism impression that was the goal of the film. Marcel Carné, one of the key figure in the poetic realism movement in French cinema, born in Paris, lost his mother when only 5 years old. He started his film career as a film critic and worked for quite a few film magazines until 1933. While he was experimenting on short films by age 25, he assisted a few directors such as René Clair.
Beyond a melodramatic thriller:
The film, in story being a melodramatic thriller, that even as such was an original in the genre, had much more to offer to the audience and to the cinema as a whole for the time and over decades to come. The film simple in the story at the surface with no political content or targeting anyone directly, due to its pure bitter realism was banned a year later after release, in France in 1940 by the Vichy government on the grounds of demoralization. But after the war’s end, the film was shown again to wide acclaim in France, and in 1947 it was again suppressed by RKO Radio Pictures that wanted to remake the film in Hollywood as “The long night”! The company acquired the distribution rights of the French film and sought to buy up and destroy every copy of the film that they could obtain. For a time it was feared that they had been successful and that the film was lost, but it re-appeared in the 1950s and has subsequently stood alongside Marcel Carné’s next masterpiece “Les Enfents du paradis” (Children of Paradise).
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