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Grand Illusions: French Cinema Classics, 1928–1960

Saturday, September 15, 2012
8:20 p.m. Hôtel du Nord
Marcel Carné (France, 1938)

The author based his original novel on (his) experience . . . growing up in the hotel that his parents operated, and this underlying realism may account for Hôtel du Nord being more gritty and less poetic than the usual Marcel Carné film. (The absence of Jean Gabin may also be a factor in this.) Yet with all its sordid underpinnings, it is finally a slightly more hopeful film than Carné’s Le jour se lève, which followed a year later, and which reflected the almost passive pessimism brought on by the inevitability of World War II. Quite apart from the superb cast, all of the writing and other creative talents—Maurice Jaubert on music for example, Alexander Trauner’s art direction—are a stimulating reminder of the great days of French cinema.

—William K. Everson

• Written by Henri Jeanson, Jean Aurenche, based on a novel by Eugène Dabit. Photographed by Armand Thiraud. With Annabella, Arletty, Louis Jouvet, Jean-Pierre Aumont. (c. 100 mins, In French with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From Institut Français, permission Janus Films/Criterion Collection)