Saturday, February 20, 2010

112. Pepe le Moko (1937)

Running Time: 94 minutes
Directed By: Julien Duvivier
Written By: Jacques Constant, Julien Duvivier
Main Cast: Jean Gabin, Mireille Balin, Lucas Gridoux, Gilbert Gil, Fernand Charpin


Finally we've reached our 101st film from the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book, which means that I'm one tenth of the way finished with my entire journey through cinema. "Pepe le Moko" stars Jean Gabin as a street wise, tough guy and turns in a great performance, in an otherwise average film.

Pepe le Moko (Gabin) is a criminal at large, taking refuge in the Casbah, the Arab quarter of Algiers. Resembling a closed in fortress of underground slums, the Casbah has become Pepe's home, knowing that if he ever dares leave he'll be caught by the police for the burglaries and theiving he's comitted. The Casbah has everything that Pepe needs; his friends, his women, food, shelter, his diamonds, except Pepe longs to be back in his hometown of Paris and often dreams of areas such as the Champs-Elysees. When the cops invade the Casbah and try to catch Pepe, they fail, even with the assistance of the Casbah rat, Regis, who is secretly working as an informant for the police.

One day, Pepe's friend Inspector Slimane (who is a police officer, but the two men have respect for each other), brings a friend with him to the Casbah, a gorgeous young lady from Paris named Gaby. Pepe immediately falls for Gaby, as she reminds him of the things that he misses about France. He even resorts to singing on the rooftops and declaring his love for Gaby. However, when she's supposed to meet him in the Casbah one evening, she fails to show up and another informant returns with news that Gaby is under close surveillance by one of her friends. Meanwhile, word was sent to Gaby that Pepe has been killed and that she need not go to the Casbah. When Pepe beats the truth out of the informant, he realizes that if he is ever to find true love and to continue on with his life, that he must leave the Casbah in search of Gaby.

Well we'll start out with Jean Gabin, who I'm rapidly becoming a fan of, as he turns in two great performances, one here and one in "Grand Illusion". He's a very patient actor, who never overacts and who always seems to play it cool and let the actions just ooze out of his body, instead of forcing them. The setting for ninety percent of this film is the Casbah and it really provides a very claustrophobic atmosphere for the viewer, as we're constantly shut-in, in this tiny community, with low ceilings and lack of air and sky. It's ironic that Pepe fears the outside world, because he doesn't want to be put in prison, yet he confines himself to the Casbah, where he must live in a prison-like world. The ending of the film is tragically beautiful and while I won't spoil it here, it is something that really breaks your heart. With all of that being said, this film still only gets to about the average point, as the plot seems to drag in spots and be very anti-climatic, especially for a gangster film.

RATING: 5.5/10 So-so film, with some bright spots, including the ending and the performance of Gabin.

NEXT UP: Jezebel...Bette Davis makes her '1001' debut...But first, I'll be back later with a ranking of the Top 20 Films I've watched thus far from the book.

February 20, 2010 7:41pm

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