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JEAN GABIN IN 'PORT OF SHADOWS' AKA 'LE QUAI DES BRUMES'

Michèle Morgan and Jean Gabin in PORT OF SHADOWS Year: 1938 Rating: ***1/2

Jean Gabin stars in a French Old Wave late-1930's crime thriller with one of those plots you still see where a group of desperate people wind up in the same small interior locale while danger lurks outside: in this case a fog-shrouded shack in a fog-shrouded town where a big ship's on the verge of leaving... soon...

Perfect for our enigmatic hero, a soldier played by Gabin who, for whatever reasons beyond strength and temper neither we nor his far-too-easily-matched love interest Michèle Morgan has any idea of (like her own wild past is clouded to him)... And then Gabin's Jean quickly gets a new identity, and in most features the story would be just beginning....

Marcel Carné directs PORT OF SHADOWS with Michel Simon and Pierre Brasseur

But PORT OF SHADOWS is like a short-story brought to life in grainy, realistic B&W detail that, despite the titular PORT representing a SHADOW-filled purgatory (even during an upbeat carnival), it harbors two lovers in jeopardy by a pair of villains that are nothing alike, and want each other dead as well...

One's an old bearded businessman (Michel Simon) who initially seems the token poetic philosopher, claiming to be the girl's godfather; and then the younger, more evilly-shaped menace in a hissing/preening Pierre Brasseur... 

Titular Location from PORT OF SHADOWS

Whose sinister gun-hidden-in-coat presence... that seems a cliche of Noir cinema that had not yet been developed combined with the universally popular Classic Gangster... pulsates trouble, even power, despite Gabin... with a scrappy dog in tow... slapping him in public, twice... 

Which in itself seals the fate of the man and his relationship, blossoming within dead cement, and yet... from an eclectic crime fable also including a jovial beggar, a dreaming artist, the shack's protective keeper and the gangster's main thug seeming primed to take over... it's nice to watch the inevitably doomed romance grow, or try to. And yes... the dog lives! 

The Stray Dog from PORT OF SHADOWS
Michèle Morgan in PORT OF SHADOWS
Michèle Morgan and Jean Gabin in PORT OF SHADOWS
Michèle Morgan and Jean Gabin in PORT OF SHADOWS
Michèle Morgan in PORT OF SHADOWS
Claude Walter as the thug's thug in PORT OF SHADOWS
Michèle Morgan and Jean Gabin in PORT OF SHADOWS


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