26/02/2012

Rififi (1955)



In one of those weird quirks of history you can’t help but smile at, we have disgraced US Senator Joseph McCarthy to thank for Rififi, a French bank heist caper considered by François Truffaut to be the greatest of all films noir. Without McCarthy’s conjuring an atmosphere of mass paranoia and ruthlessly persecuting his political opponents, talented director Jules Dassin wouldn’t have been blacklisted and banished to Europe as a Communist sympathiser and found himself signed on to replace Jean-Pierre Melville at the helm of this brilliant adaptation of Auguste Le Breton’s 1953 novel Du Rififi Chez Les Hommes. Dassin’s first film in five years following the splendidly gloomy Night & The City (1950), shot in the UK, Rififi stars Belgian actor Jean Servais, whose career was then on the skids because of a drink problem, as Tony Le Stéphanois, a cold ass career criminal fresh out of prison with his eyes on one final pay-off before his body caves in to tuberculosis. Plotting and carrying out a spectacular jewel theft with a gang of specialist accomplices on Paris’s Rue de Rivoli, Le Stéphanois appears to be home and dry until a fatal mistake by one gang member places them all in the hands of a rival mob, with bloody consequences.



Shot in documentary style using real locations - with Dassin’s crew forced to wait for grey, overcast weather - and with only a low budget and a script hammered out by the director in six days, Rififi turned out to be an exquisite little urban thriller that anticipates the French New Wave in several respects. One of the most influential of all French crime films along with Melville’s Bob Le Flambeur (1956), Le Doulos (1962) and Le Samourai (1967), Dassin’s film remains rightly celebrated for its 24 minute wordless heist sequence, which captures the safecrackers’ entire methodology in intricate, procedural detail with only the ambient sounds of the crime scene in play – no dialogue, no music. I first saw this film at the Phoenix Picture House in Oxford when it was restored and re-released in 2000 and found myself so enthralled and engrossed that it never actually occurred to me once that no character had spoken for almost half an hour. It’s very much the sort of formal suspense challenge you feel Alfred Hitchcock would have appreciated and has been endlessly imitated since, perhaps most notably by Melville himself in Le Cercle Rouge (1970). Two points less frequently raised about this bravura scene is how stylish it is – the hoodlums wear suits and plimsolls rather than the boiler suits and balaclavas Hollywood has since taught us to expect (Dassin himself, playing César Le Milanais, even sports a dapper bowtie and waistcoat!) – and that it was in fact based on real crime that occurred in the French capital in 1899, when thieves broke into a room above a travel agent’s, drilled a small hole in the ceiling and poked an umbrella through to catch the remaining debris as they widened it before sliding down a rope to access the vault. Indeed, the French police were apparently so concerned by the forensic accuracy of this scene that Rififi was briefly banned because of concerns it might spark copycat incidents.


Another interesting aspect of the film is the story of its writing. Dassin was horrified by the source novel, confused by Le Breton’s use of street slang and affronted by the author’s vicious racism. In the book, the rival outfit led onscreen by Marcel Lupovici’s Pierre Grutter is comprised of Arabs and North Africans who are presented as uniformly cruel and grotesque, even stooping to necrophilia at one point. Producer Henri Bérard agreed with Dassin that the characterisation was highly objectionable and that contemporary tensions between France and Algeria could be exacerbated by bringing such material to the screen. Bérard instead proposed that the characters be re-cast as Americans, a joke he thought Dassin would appreciate. However, the director felt such an overt act of political vengeance would appear too bitter and proposed finally that they simply be French, neatly resolving the question with much less fuss. The author, however, who was apparently something of a poser and fantasised about being a gangster himself, hated the screen treatment of his work – which brilliantly superimposes the three act structure of classical tragedy onto the novel - and subsequently threatened Dassin with a gun. The American simply laughed at what was clearly an empty threat and the two ended up becoming friends. How Le Breton could seriously object to Rififi is beyond me. Servais makes for a marvellous anti-hero, sympathetic and yet truly despicable in the scene in which he strips, humiliates and beats his wayward former girlfriend Mado (Marie Sabouret). His demise at the end, heroically rescuing his godson and heir apparent Little Tonio (Dominique Maurin) from a kidnapping at the hands of Grutter’s hoods, racing across Paris bleeding to death from a bullet wound, is truly moving cinema in spite of the character's violence and villainy. Rififi also a fascinating portrait of an underworld and its strict code of honour, a film policier in which the police are largely absent and entirely ineffectual when they do appear, instantly knocked out by Tony while idly inspecting the gang’s stolen getaway car.



Here's Rififi’s theme song, sung by Magali Noël, later to appear in a number of Federico Fellini pictures, which is used to explain the film's title (translating very roughly as “trouble”). Often denigrated, the number serves to glamorise and romanticise the lifestyle of the criminal class depicted and seems like an obvious inspiration for the iconic opening titles of the James Bond series, all silhouettes, sexy girls and smoking guns.

23/02/2012

The Lost Weekend (1945)


A craven Don Birnam (Ray Milland) begging sympathetic bartender Nat (Howard Da Silva) for one final shot of rye on the house in Billy Wilder’s masterful adaptation of Charles R. Jackson’s 1944 social issue novel The Lost Weekend. Milland gives an absolutely towering performance as Birnam, a New York alcoholic tormented by his failed ambition to become a novelist who ducks out of a trip to the country organised for him by his concerned brother Wick (Philip Terry) so that he can dry out in order to indulge his addiction. Scheming, stealing and conniving his way from shot glass to quart and sliding into ever greater depths of drunkenness, depravity and self-loathing, Birnam’s is a descent into in an everyday hell, ending with his incarceration in an alcoholic ward run by a cynical male nurse (Frank Faylen) who’s seen it all before. Milland, looking for all the world like a degenerate Cary Grant, brings a frantic cunning to Birnam, a resourcefulness born out of desperation, his innately sinister eyes flicking around every room he enters in search of his next drop or hiding place, a sadly reduced creature and something less than a man.

Wilder and co-writer Charles Brackett embarked upon their adaptation in the wake of the director’s eventful collaboration on the script for Double Indemnity (1944) with crime novelist Raymond Chandler, who was then undergoing treatment for his own chronic drink problem. Wilder was thus interested in making The Lost Weekend as a means of holding a mirror up to Chandler and of portraying on screen the true reality of an affliction that would not be classified as a disease by the American Medical Association until 1956, a decade after the film was released to such acclaim. In treating alcoholism as a mental illness rather than an indicator of a weak or intemperate character, The Lost Weekend was wildly ahead of its time. Drunkenness on film had almost always been played for laughs, an easy excuse for pratfalls, hiccups and staggering since the silent days. W.C. Fields may have been celebrated for his love of liquor and mock horror at the very prospect of drinking a glass of water but we rarely see him hungover in his movies and the Great Man’s tippling caught up with him in the end: he died the year after The Lost Weekend was released from a stomach hemorrhage. Wilder’s film remains a mature and nightmarish depiction of the condition and though it might not succeed in unnerving modern audiences accustomed to the shock tactics of more recent addiction dramas like Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem For A Dream (2000), the scene in which Milland endures his horrid hallucination of a bat devouring a dormouse is simply unforgettable and a clear inspiration for the baby-on-the-ceiling cold turkey fever dream sequence in Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting (1996). Another later echo of the film, incidentally, can be found on jazz performance poet Gil Scott-Heron’s 1974 album Winter In America, where the rap pioneer presents his own piece of social commentary on alcoholism also called ‘The Bottle’, perhaps a nod to Don Birnam’s aborted masterpiece.


As well as a case study of a schizophrenic, out-of-control drinker, Wilder’s film has plenty to say about a society that encounters the problem of alcoholism everyday and refuses to take it seriously and an economic system that puts sales ahead of personal morals: Nat the bartender keeps on pouring Don slugs because necessity overrules his conscience. The Lost Weekend is also a powerful assault on the much-romanticised myth of the self-destructive artist, a universal fantasy typified in the US by the likes of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Dashiell Hammett. Rarely do we read of such titans begging in liquor stores, waiting for the pawn shops to open or screaming in the night, as Don Birnam does. Birnam may be difficult-but-brilliant but he’s also less than endearing, showing a callous and ungrateful disregard for his brother’s kindness and patronage and the unconditional love and support he receives from his girlfriend Helen (Jane Wyman). His embittered speech about the failure of his writing career maps out an all-too-plausible life of disappointment and frustration:

"You see, in college I passed for a genius. They couldn’t get out the college magazine without one of my stories. Boy, was I hot. Hemingway stuff. I reached my peak when I was 19. Sold a piece to the Atlantic Monthly. It was reprinted in the Readers’ Digest. Who wants to stay in college when he’s Hemingway? My mother bought me a brand new typewriter and I moved right in on New York. Well, the first thing I wrote, that didn’t quite come off. And the second I dropped. The public wasn’t ready for that one. I started a third, a fourth, only about then somebody began to look over my shoulder and whisper, in a thin, clear voice like the E-string on a violin. Don Birnam, he’d whisper, it’s not good enough. Not that way. How about a couple of drinks just to put it on its feet? So I had a couple. Oh, that was a great idea. That made all the difference. Suddenly I could see the whole thing – the tragic sweep of the great novel, beautifully proportioned. But before I could really grab it and throw it down on paper, the drink would wear off and everything be gone like a mirage. Then there was despair and a drink to counterbalance despair and one to counterbalance the counterbalance. I’d be sitting in front of that typewriter, trying to squeeze out a page that was halfway decent and that guy would pop up again..."

French critic Nino Frank categorised The Lost Weekend as a film noir in his seminal essay, ‘Un Nouveau Genre “Policier”: L’Aventure Criminelle’, which was published in L’Écran Français in August 1946 and helped coin the term. Wilder’s film certainly shares the genre’s themes of entrapment and existential crisis, if not its murders and mystery. The noir it perhaps most resembles is Fritz Lang’s Scarlet Street (1945), which also deals with a man driven to extremes by a lifetime of hindered creativity. However, there is perhaps an equally good case for the picture to be considered a horror film. Milland would become known for horror roles later on in his career through such films as The Premature Burial (1962), X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes (1963), The Thing With Two Heads (1972) and Terror In The Wax Museum (1973) and is certainly mighty intense here. There’s also Wilder’s surreal and unsettling hallucination scenes and his camera plunging us face-first into a sickly, sticky glass of whisky as well as Miklós Rózsa’s eerie theremin score to consider, the latter giving the film a queasy feel that aurally anticipates the great science-fiction B-movies of the fifties. Perhaps only The Lost Weekend’s upbeat ending spoils the idea, though how genuine Don Birnam’s promise to start over with a clean page in his typewriter is remains open to question. It could just be another empty promise, another brief lucid interlude in his unhappy existence.

16/02/2012

Never Give A Sucker An Even Break (1941)

 
Before old age and a lifetime of glugging red eye caught up with him, W.C. Fields' final performance in a starring role was this extraordinarily surreal and postmodern comedy classic from Universal about the Great Man's efforts to pitch his latest wild script to the head of "Esoteric Pictures" (Franklin Pangborn).

Fields is introduced standing back to admire a billboard advertising his own previous film, The Bank Dick (1940), and appears, along with Pangborn and MGM starlet Gloria Jean, under his own name as a fictionalised version of himself, just as Larry David would in Curb Your Enthusiasm 60 years later. Following a subsequent altercation with a passing couple and a sub-standard breakfast, Fields drops his niece (Jean) off at the studio where she is singing soprano in a lame new musical currently in production and heads over to Pangborn's office to attend a story conference at which his new screenplay is read aloud with increasing bemusement and horror by the executive. Its plot turns out to involve Fields and Gloria Jean catching a flight on an innovative modern passenger aeroplane complete with its own open-air rear observation area, from which Fields is forced to leap heroically in mid-flight to rescue a bottle of liquor he has accidentally knocked over board. Plummeting to earth, he lands safely within the grounds of a mountaintop "nest" high up above a nearby Cossack village that plays home to the harshly eye-browed Mrs Hemogloben (Marx Brothers foil Margaret Dumont), an embittered single mother determined to raise her naive but beautiful daughter (Susan Miller) entirely apart from the world of men. Fields is attracted to the girl and attempts to seduce her with a kissing game before learning that Mrs Hemogloben herself is extremely wealthy. He returns a day later in elegant attire to propose to the elder matron before Gloria Jean manages to dissuade him, at which point Pangborn's frustration becomes too great and he kicks Fields out without a penny: "That's all! That's enough! That's too much! Aeroplanes with sun decks! Russian villages in the sky! Gorillas playing Post Office!" The Great Man retires to a local ice cream parlour, turning to the camera briefly to explain that the scene was supposed to be staged in a saloon before the censor intervened. Having blown the frothy head off a peach sundae and wrestled half-heartedly with the scoops inside, Fields abandons the dessert altogether and heads off into Los Angeles for one final adventure.


While the devices of narrative interruption and digression might have their origins in Laurence Sterne's legendary comic novel The Life & Opinions Of Tristram Shandy (1759-67), Never Give A Sucker An Even Break's behind-the-scenes depiction of the entertainment industry and the frustrations endured by creative types at the mercy of studio meddling is as contemporary as 30 Rock (2006-). W.C. was always way ahead of his time and there's no better example than this. One wonders what "impossible, inconceivable" Swiftian fantasies he might have served up had he really been given the creative freedom and budget his talents deserved. As inventive and freewheeling as Never Give A Sucker... is, however, there are a few bits of business recycled from elsewhere in his oeuvre, which ultimately turns the film into something of a greatest hits package. Fields had had trouble with bulky, moustached foreigners in confined carriage corridors before in The Old Fashioned Way (1934), seen his morning shave interrupted by inconsiderate others in It's A Gift (1934) and run into parking-related misunderstandings with the cops in Man On The Flying Trapeze (1935). The Bank Dick ended with a madcap car chase and so does this one, with Fields doing his very best to chauffeur a large but definitely not pregnant lady across town to the nearest maternity hospital at high speed. However, we can hardly begrudge a man responsible for such a glorious comic legacy a final lap of honour now can we?


The above scene is perhaps Never Give A Sucker's... highlight and a truly great encounter, Fields meeting his match in the surly person of Jody Gilbert, one tough waitress. A common gripe raised against the Great Man is his frequently unflattering treatment of women but Gloria Jean was only the last of many sympathetic nieces and daughters appearing in his films and he is as generous here in allowing Gilbert her fair share of the laughs as he was with Mae West in My Little Chickadee (1940).

11/02/2012

Nicholas Nickleby (1947)



Last Tuesday marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens, probably the greatest writer ever to reach for a feathered quill and embark upon a novel. In honour of this literary Titan, I thought I'd dig out this old Ealing version of his beloved 1839 Bildungsroman, The Life & Adventures Of Nicholas Nickleby, directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, his final picture for the studio. Often unfavourably compared with David Lean's faultless Great Expectations a year earlier, Cavalcanti's film actually stands up remarkably well. Dickens adaptations proved popular with post-war cinema audiences in the forties because they discussed hardship, want and deprivation, themes all too familiar in an austerity climate and perhaps why the author's bicentennial has struck such a chord in 2012.


Nicholas Nickleby's title character (played here by Derek Bond) is a young man who has recently completed his education and, along with his mother (Mary Merrall) and sister Kate (Sally Ann Howes), been cast into the hands of his cruel and miserly Uncle Ralph (Cedric Hardwicke) following the death of his father. Ralph Nickleby proceeds to ship young Nicholas off to a teaching post at Dotheboys Hall in Yorkshire, a grim little boarding school for boys where nourishment is scarce but violent corporal punishment dished out liberally by its tyrannical proprietor, Wackford Squeers (Alfred Drayton). Nickleby takes exception to a particuarly vicious beating Squeers inflicts upon one haunted student, Smike (Aubrey Woods), and intervenes, after which master and pupil depart together. Abandoned by his uncle, Nicholas tries various lines of work before meeting flamboyant actor Vincent Crummels (Stanley Holloway) and his itinerant theatre troupe. He and Smike join the company and prove a success but Nicholas is soon called away to aid Kate, whom Ralph is surreptitiously seeking to pimp out to two sleazy business associates. Nicholas must finally confront his odious guardian and prevent him from blackmailing the lovely Miss Bray (Jill Balcon, daughter of studio boss Michael and later mother of Daniel Day-Lewis) into marriage in exchange for cancelling her pauper father's debts.


John Dighton's screenplay necessarily makes a number of sacrifices in condensing Dickens' weighty doorstop into a feature length costume drama but it's an admirable effort. A story with a great deal more threads and characters to it than Great Expectations (1861), Cavalacanti's film may not succeed in navigating the novel's more soapy plot developments entirely smoothly and Bond is only so-so in the lead but there are some wonderful character turns to relish. Hardwicke, Holloway, Drayton and Bernard Miles (a veteran of Lean's film, in which he made for a heart-breaking Joe Gargery) are clearly enjoying themselves and there are some fabulous bit-parts for the likes of Vida Hope as Squeers' spoiled daughter, Timothy Bateson and Cecil Ramage as Lord Verisopht and Sir Mulberry Hawk respectively, Cyril Fletcher as the winsomely foppish Mantalini and James Hayter, playing twins 63 years before Armie Hammer as Ned and Charles Cheeryble. All look as though they have stepped straight out of a Phiz illustration and more from any or all of them would have been welcome. Not perfect then but a convincing portrayal of a society riddled with hypocrisies, monsters and injustice and all the more of a pleasure for that. Dickens and Ealing were always going to be made for one another like hot chops and sauce.

07/02/2012

The Children's Hour (1961)


Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine in a publicity still to promote William Wyler's adaptation of Lillian Hellman's controversial 1934 stage tragedy about two teachers, Karen Wright and Martha Dobie, whose lives are torn apart when a resentful pupil at their New England boarding school begins spreading the untrue rumour that they are lesbians and carrying on an affair. Wyler had already shot the play earlier in his career as These Three (1936) with Merle Oberon and Miriam Hopkins at a time when the Motion Picture Production Code prohibited the text's taboo subject matter, forcing him to alter the central accusation and make it into a more palatable straight love triangle between Karen and Martha and the former's fiancé, Dr Joe Cardin (Joel McCrea). By the early sixties, screenwriter John Michael Hayes still wasn't allowed to use the "L" word or refer to the women's alleged homosexuality explicitly but remained otherwise largely faithful to Hellman's source.

Wyler's second crack at The Children's Hour is very much a filmed play with everything spelled out, nothing left unsaid and a number of scenes drawn out for far too long in order to accommodate some weighty speechifying. It certainly has its faults but MacLaine is utterly compelling, as is Miriam Hopkins (returning after taking on the role of Martha in These Three) as the terminally vain and self-absorbed actress Aunt Lilly whose incautious jibes inspire young Mary Tilford's fatal fib in the first place. Fay Bainter is also pitch-perfect as the girl's strident and hysterical grandmother who leads the witch hunt before coming to realise all too late how horribly wrong she's been. The child actors are also strong, notably Karen Balkin as Mary and Veronica Cartwright as Rosalie Wells, the kleptomaniac blackmailed into endorsing her classmate's falsehood. Hepburn makes for a calm, gentle counterpoint to MacLaine's temperamental Martha and has the right sort of ethereal beauty one can imagine someone becoming infatuated with and imposing their romantic ideals and lonely fantasies upon but her performance ultimately comes across as a tad vague and passive, especially when juxtaposed with her fearless co-star, whom your heart just bleeds for. This remains a resonant and emotional bit of melodrama, whose best moment is arguably when the gaggle of leering male farmhands pull up at the gates of the empty school in a flatbed truck to leer at the women like vultures circling a wounded deer, their presence alone enough to convey great menace, hypocritical disapproval and a looming sexual threat, all without a word said.



Revived last year in London's West End in a production starring Keira Knightley and Elisabeth Moss from Mad Men (2007-), Hellman's work deserves to live on for its sensitivity and very modern concerns - sexual identity, homophobia, the destructive power of gossip, slander and insinuation - which, if anything, are more topical today than they were when she first raised them in the mid-thirties.

06/02/2012

Room Service (1938)


Oh dear. The decline of the Marx Brothers began here with this sagging, sluggish hotel farce made while out on loan to RKO immediately after the death of MGM's Irving Thalberg, their only outing not based on a concept created by the boys themselves. Adapted instead from a 1937 Broadway play by Allen Boretz and John Murray that Zeppo had seen and liked, Room Service finds Groucho's scheming producer in debt and unable to bankroll his latest venture, spending his days fending off the fastidious hotel manager trying to evict him while desperately courting backers for his project. Veteran gag writer Morrie Ryskind does his best with the script but the lines are hit-and-miss, William A. Seiter's direction is utterly anonymous and the one-set approach feels too confined and claustrophobic (in fairness to Ryskind though, his hands were tied by a studio reluctant to alter a hit play and he did later concede that Room Service, "was a cramped, badly paced miscalculation"). Groucho seems particularly uninspired and was clearly only doing it for the money - any Marx caper in which his character is named "Gordon Miller", rather than Dr Hugo Z. Hackenbush, Wolf J. Flywheel, Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff or Otis P. Driftwood, just can't be good. Future noir character actor Donald MacBride plays the increasingly frustrated hotel boss with gusto ("Jumpin' butterballs!") but Lucille Ball, Ann Miller and, most bizarrely, Chico, are left with very little to do, though the latter does have a nice bit of business with a mounted moose head. Harpo comes off better in a part shoe-horned in especially for him, notably producing a wild turkey from his infinite overcoat and chasing it around the suite with an axe and shotgun in a bid to fend off hunger. His costume for the performance, which features a miner's helmet with a flaming gas lamp affixed to the front, is also at least memorable. Hail and farewell boys.

02/02/2012

Le Quai Des Brumes (1938)


Another very fine moment in French cinema, this erratic but brilliant existential noir from writer-director team Jacques Prévert and Marcel Carné stars Jean Gabin as another doomed but philosophical outsider, this time a deserter haunted by his experiences with the French colonial army who rears out of the mist to hitch his way to the Port of Le Havre in the hope of finding passage to a new life on one of the departing freighters bound for South America. On the way, a stray drunk and a mongrel puppy guide Jean to a ramshackle tavern on the beach where he encounters a number of strange characters including suicidal artist Michel Krauss (Robert Le Vigan); the proprietor (Edouard Delmont), a kindly fellow fixated on his misspent youth in Panama; and, most importantly, Nelly (Michèle Morgan), a 17 year old local beauty whose boyfriend Maurice has recently disappeared. When a car-full of gangsters rocks up in pursuit of Zabel (Michel Simon), Nelly's guardian, Jean is initially nonplussed but later slaps around their petulant man-child of a boss Lucien (Pierre Brasseur) for bullying Nelly, with whom he has fallen in love, a piece of chivalry that will ultimately have fatal consequences. Meanwhile, the artist has finally taken the plunge and ended it all, bequeathing his passport, a suit of clothes and 850 francs to Jean so that he can make his escape to Venezuela under an assumed identity. However, our boy is torn about leaving Nelly behind and has found himself framed by circumstance for the murder of Maurice after the latter's body is dredged up from the harbour alongside the army uniform Jean previously discarded. What's more, Lucien's on his tail gunning for revenge and the real killer's still on the loose.


Based on a novel by Pierre Mac Orlan, Le Quai Des Brumes marked the first of four collaborations between Gabin and Morgan, who apparently became involved on set but never pursued an affair because the former happened to be a married man at the time. However, their chemistry together on screen is as clear and undeniable as it is in the picture above, taken during a lunch break on the film's location shoot in Le Havre. Gabin had slowly become a symbol of working class integrity and a fatalistic icon over the course of the thirties by delivering big performances in such films as Pépé Le Moko by Julien Duvivier and Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion (both 1937) and helped get this classic of "poetic realism" off the ground when producers baulked at its downbeat subject matter. His signature character was surely cemented here through his portrayal of a man coming to terms with the idea that destiny is as inescapable as the creeping fog of this "port of shadows", a notion that would have chimed with contemporary French audiences staring the prospect of war with Germany in the face. Gabin's star would only soar higher the following year when he appeared in another trademark outing, Le Jour Se Lève, also scripted and directed by Prévert and Carné, who would go on to make their masterpiece, Les Enfants Du Paradis, seven years later. As well as the romantic leads, Le Quai De Brumes also boasts Michel Simon, France's premier character actor of the day, as the seemingly harmless gift shop owner and church music enthusiast Zabel, really a beast tragically unable to keep a rein on his true monstrousness. In truth, his psychodramatic sub-plot and the development of the burgeoning relationship between Jean and Nelly in the film's second half end up leaving the criminals and eccentrics from the first a tad sidelined, though this somehow doesn't matter over all. Carné's gloomy mood piece is superbly complimented by Maurice Jaubert's theme, emphatically echoing the raging of the sea, and apparently once prompted a spokesman for the Vichy government to publicly blame the film for lowering the morale of the French populace at a pivotal moment: "If we lost the war, it was because of Le Quai Des Brumes". Remarkable.