Port of Shadows

Director: Marcel Carné
Year Released: 1939
Rating: 3.5

Jean Gabin, mysteriously on leave from the military, gets involved in the life of a teenager, her godfather and other lowlives in this atmospheric and surprisingly grim film by Carné. Fellow cinematic giant Jean Renoir apparently disliked this film immensely, and it's easy to see why (in light of Renoir's style and overwhelming sense of humanity): there is little or no hope to any of these individuals' lives - suicide appears to be the most rational 'option' - and the ending is uncompromising, offering no way out for virtually anyone. That said, I found the Gabin character - and that of his girlfriend - to be sad, confused and very real and, despite being rough around the edges, the movie to be a shamelessly pessimistic statement about life going horribly wrong: not all lives end happily. The dog that befriends Gabin - and represents freedom, innocence and optimism - is the only creature that can free itself.