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Grand Illusions: French Cinema Classics, 1928–1960

Friday, October 26, 2012
7:00 p.m. Remorques
Jean Grémillon (France, 1941)

(a.k.a. Stormy Waters). Cowritten by Jacques Prévert, Remorques stars Jean Gabin as a tugboat captain working the storm-battered coast of Brittany, where, as in so many classics of romantic fatalism, atmosphere and environment become extended metaphors for a turbulent existential condition. When the moody Michèle Morgan washes into Gabin’s life, he begins to become unmoored from his marriage to fragile Madeleine Renaud. Grémillon was trained as a musician, and he makes distinctive use of sound, rising to a remarkable climax that sees Gabin casting off into yet another storm while sonorous voices utter a somber prayer for deliverance. The production weathered storms of its own: begun in the summer of 1939, it wasn’t completed until 1941, after the producer had fled the Nazi Occupation.

—Juliet Clark

• Written by Jacques Prévert, André Cayatte, Charles Spaak, based on a novel by Roger Vercel. Photographed by Armand Thirard, Louis Née. With Jean Gabin, Michèle Morgan, Madeleine Renaud, Charles Blavette. (85 mins, In French with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From Institut Français, permission Janus Films/Criterion Collection)