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Screened a 4K DCP from Tamasa with English subtitles - 2014 restoration by Éclair (image) and Diapason (sound), "version restaurée inédite", "version non censurée pour la première fois depuis 1940" - source: a second generation nitrate print - three scenes deleted during the Vichy regime reinstated - Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Marcel Carné), 22 Jan 2015
AA: It feels futile to write about Le Jour se lève after reading André Bazin's remarks about it. Bazin's major insight is that Le Jour se lève is a tragedy which can even literally be compared with classic Greek tragedy. Just a few thoughts here.
Fatalism is prominent in this last film of the wonderful Carné team (including Prévert, Trauner, Jaubert, Gabin, Arletty, etc.) before WWII. François and Mr. Valentin seem marked by death from the start.
François is a sandblaster at an engine mill, and he has pneumoconiosis. His coughing, his constant feeling of his chest, and even his incessant smoking belong to the signs of death. The final tear gas is merely a redundant supplement to the dangerous substances. François is dead already.
The screenplay by Jacques Viot and the dialogue by Jacques Prévert are great literature. For example the dialogues of François and Clara are full of biting wit and unique tenderness.
There is an atmosphere of magic created by the Carné team. A strong unity of vision, each detail pregnant with meaning (the eyes, the teddy bear, the brooch, the bicycle, the flowers, the gun, the photographs, the postcards, the alarm clock).
Le Jour se lève is a demonstration of the genius of the system in studio production entirely created on constructed sets (Alexandre Trauner). A masterpiece in the Expressionistic tradition.
The events take place at night, and the film is dream-like in its overwhelming darkness and the fluidity of its superimpositions and flashbacks. Le Jour se lève is a death dream.
The performances are perfect. Jean Gabin compared by Bazin with heroes of Greek tragedy. Jules Berry as the pathological liar. Jacqueline Laurent as sweetness incarnate. And especially Arletty as the second woman to both men. Her performance is the most demanding, and she manages it with subtle tenderness. Her expressions are delicate and illuminating.*
The final score by Maurice Jaubert (he died on the front in WWII in 1940) is stark and ominous. The chanson sung by Germaine Lix adds a personal touch to the cabaret sequence.
The cinematography by Curt Courant, assisted by Philippe Agostini, André Bac, and Albert Viguier has a special graphic quality in each scene, in each shot. There is nothing indifferent here.
This film of dark foreboding is, however, peculiarly exhilarating. That is the secret of tragedy. We emphatize with the fundamental greatness and dignity of the protagonists, even though a fatal weakness or mistake makes them perish. The other secret is that this film is so breathtakingly well made that it is a sheer pleasure to watch even though the subject is fatalistic. There is an assured sense of mythical crystallization here.
The restoration has been conducted by the best talent with utmost care, and mostly the result looks really great, but as the Éclair Group states in their restoration report (see beyond the jump break) there were problems and difficulties in the source material. For starters, the camera negative has been destroyed. Due to the source material there are minor instances of fluctuation, wavering and lack of definition. But overall this is a great restoration and a complete one as scenes deleted during the Vichy regime have been reinstated.
* Again Arletty gets some wonderful self-parodical lines that seem to debunk the fatalistic Carné corpus: "Des souvenirs... Est-ce que j'ai une gueule à faire l'amour avec des souvenirs?" It seems to reflect on Arletty's remark in Hôtel du Nord: "Atmosphère? Atmosphère? Est-ce que j'ai une gueule d'atmosphère?"
AFTER THE JUMP BREAK OUR PROGRAMME NOTE AND THE ECLAIR GROUP RESTORATION REPORT