Friday, July 01, 2011

Le Quai des brumes (2011 digital restoration by Canal+, La Cinémathèque française)

Sumujen laituri / Il porto delle nebbie. FR 1938. D: Marcel Carné. Based on the novel (1927) by Pierre Mac Orlan; SC: Jacques Prévert; DP: Eugen Schüfftan; Op.: Louis Page, Marc Fossard, Henri Alekan; ED: René Le Hénaff; PD: Alexandre Trauner; M: Maurice Jaubert; S: Antoine Archaimbaud; Cast: Jean Gabin (Jean), Michèle Morgan (Nelly), Michel Simon (Zabel), Pïerre Brasseur (Lucien), Robert Le Vigan (Michel Krauss, il pittore), Edouard Delmont (Panama), Aimos (Quart-Vittel), Marcel Pérèz (il camionista), René Génin (il dottore), Jenny Burnay (la ragazza di Lucien), Roger Legris (il fattorino dell’albergo), Claude Walter, Martial Rebé, Marcel Melrac; P: Grégor Rabinovitch per Ciné-Alliance; Pri. pro.: 18 maggio 1938. DCP 2K. 91’. B&w. Version française. English subtitles. From: Canal+ e La Cinémathèque française. Cinema Jolly (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato), 1 July 2011.

Catalogue: "The screens were regurgitating comedies – some musicals and some not – brilliant, full of sun, joy and extras. And then I showed up with the empty nightclub, the fog, grayness, streets wet with rain and lit by dim streetlamps! Luckily it was too late to change everything, supposing – totally unthinkable – that Jacques [Prévert] and I accepted to do it. Moreover, I felt supported by Gabin, whose availability and help alone gave me a sense of security. Filming began as planned on January 2, 1938 in Le Havre, without any cuts. The cold was awful. (…) Naturally, we had counted on the fog, which instead decided not to show up. Trauner and Schüfftan created it artificially by burning a kind of tar in big metal containers. (…) [Trauner] excelled at building “false perspective” sets. For example, a thirty meter street, once transferred to the screen, gave the impression of being four times as long, if the right tool was used, that is, a lens with a short focal length. The effect depended on the organization and especially the proportions of the buildings along the street: the ones in the foreground were normal in size or much smaller, while the other ones gradually decreased in height and width; depending on the length of the street, the last buildings were only two or even just one meter high. The road’s inclined plane rising towards the end also helped the optical illusion." (Marcel Carné, La Vie à belles dents, Jean Vuarnet, Paris 1979).

""Port of Shadows had such a deep influence on French cinema that when Godard presented Breathless twenty-two years later, both Gabin the deserter and Belmondo the murderer on the run had many qualities in common as do the two films. The same is true for Have I the Right to Kill? [by Alain Cavalier] in which Delon is compared to Gabin. And it will probably happen again each time characters show up on the screen who, at one time or another, are cut off from their roots and try to escape from their past with a passionate love story; like the sets where grayness, rain, glimmering pavement and dismal dawns foreshadow misfortune and the certainty of defeat." (Robert Chazal, Marcel Carné, Seghers, Paris 1965).

AA: Camille Blot-Wellens reported that there was a new dupe positive from the original negative by Neyrac, the 2K digitization, the digital restoration and the grading was done at Éclair, and the restoration of the sound by Le Diapason. This was the first screening of the restored Le Quai des brumes. A leading French film archive authority was enthusiastic and said that he had never seen Le Quai des brumes in a version as wonderful as this. I agree, having always seen prints that are mediocre or worse. Le Quai des brumes is an extraordinarily difficult film for the definition of light, being a "film noir" full of fog, dusk, and smoke. I sampled the opening scenes until the appearance of Michel Simon. I look forward to seeing this restoration in its entirety.

No comments: