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Frank, a hobo, ends up in a garage-truck stop in the middle of nowhere. Nick Marino, its older, kind and naive owner, is married to Cora, a sexy and mercenary woman half his age. Frank, although not a fan of hard work, accepts Nick's offer to work for him. Of course, it is not for Nick's sake that the young man becomes his attendant, but for the love of Cora under whose spell he has fallen at once. It does not take long before Cora, who despises her husband, asks her lover to help her get rid of him. Frank is reluctant at first but.Written by
The last line of the movie : "Le jour se lève." (=it's daybreak ) ; it is also the title of Marcel Carné's 1939 masterpiece .It won't be lost on a 2020 audience who knows both works.
Both really fit into the black picture of the situation of the country in 1939;both works were blacklisted by the office catholique du cinema ;Carné's work was even forbidden by the military censorship as demoralizing.
Chenal's work has to be upgraded : it was not the first time he had broached film noir (see "La maison du maltais " and "l'alibi") ,but it was the apex of his pre-war years ;five years after being published in the US ,it took a lot of guts to transfer such a filthy story to the screen; its atmosphere surpasses that of Tay Garnett which looks almost "hollywoodian" compared to it : a murky one ;although the action takes place in the south of France ,never some sunlight does break through on this dark gloomy gas station,even after the owner's death ,or should I say mainly after the murder ; the scene when the couple dances a valse musette to the tune of Simon's accordion looks almost like a danse macabre ;it should be a joyful relief , it's painful to watch.
Of course Michel Simon is prodigious ,but Corinne Luchaire also rises to the occasion ; her playing was modern for the time and she easily outclasses glamorous Lana Turner .Her Cora seems unable to react to events ,she had never been happy (she told it so to Frank) and she knew she never would .She seems to be living in a dream (or a nightmare ) in the "accident" scene .
Gravey ,on the other hand , is just okay ,and John Garfield would outshine him.
This movie and "La Foire Aux Chimères" (1946) are Chenal's towering achievements ;in both movies , a man (Simon in this one, Von Stroheim in the other one) is victim of a femme fatale (who is also a victim herself ).
Corinne Luchaire's fate was as cruel as Cora's.
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