Marcel Carné’s newly restored 1938 classic of French ‘poetic realism’ gave Jean Gabin one of his most memorably iconic roles as an army deserter on the run. Holed up in a waterfront dive in foggy Le Havre, Jean hopes to escape by boat to Venezuela, but his plans run aground when he falls for Nelly (Michèle Morgan), the young ward of the lecherous Zabel (Michel Simon) and clearly an object of jealous desire for local gangster Julien (Pierre Brasseur). How can Jean protect her if he’s headed abroad?
Jacques Prévert’s typically astute script is merely the starting point for one of the most roundly satisfying crime movies of the pre-war years; with its gallery of garrulous low-lifes, Alexandre Trauner’s magically evocative sets, the melancholy mists and shadows conveyed by Eugene Schufftan’s camera, Coco Chanel’s discreetly stylish costume designs and Maurice Jaubert’s haunting score, the film is a wonder of collaborative artistry. The bittersweet atmosphere of fatalistic romanticism is brilliantly sustained by Carné and his cast. (Notes by Geoff Andrew.)