Review of Le jour se lève (1939)

Moving picture, 93 minutes

Seen in 2021.

Judging by the grain and lack of nudity, the version I saw on SVT in 2021 was not fully restored.

A supposedly well-adjusted foundry worker locks himself in his penthouse after killing a man. The reasons unfold as the police lay siege to his apartment.

Iconic French “poetic realism”. Indeed it is a compromise between opposites. The pacing, shot composition and Proustian dissolves are all smooth and gentle. The very last shot is perfect: The sun rising to illuminate a similarly rising mist of knockout gas in Jean Gabin’s apartment, where he lies dead by suicide among the glistening shards of the mirror he shattered to avoid having to look at the image of himself, distorted as it was by the bullet holes of the police and his own raw conscience. C’est magnifique! Unfortunately, the plot is a drag, ultimately revolving around foolish sexual pride and possessiveness that could have worked just the same way in any socioeconomic class at this time. Only the handful of scenes on the street contribute a sense of realism more fresh than the melodramas of the previous decades. In all of these aspects, the film’s boring influence on bourgeois drama in cinema is still felt in 2021.

moving picture fiction