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 Port of Shadows by The Fifi Organization

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michel sanvoisin


Nombre de messages : 85
Localisation : rue des moines, paris
Date d'inscription : 11/11/2006

MessageSujet: Port of Shadows by The Fifi Organization   Lun 17 Aoû - 18:59

Just came across this great review of Le Quai des Brumes aka Port of Shadows by Marcel Carne by Matt @ Fifi Organization.
As he wrote
Citation :
In the film “Port of Shadows” you don’t get just ONE Bitch-Slap, you get THREE!

The link (scroll down to the comments !) or a quick cut&paste as usual :

Citation :


May 11th, 2009 at 12:44 pm

OKAY, COMPLETE DISCLAIMER HERE: I watched and reviewed the WRONG FILM. The film I watched and reviewed was “Port of Shadows” or, in the French: “Le quai des brumes” not “Le jour se lève” I don’t know why I reviewed the wrong film. First, they star the same actor. Second, they’re directed by the same guy. I could blame “Netflix” for screwing it up. I must say that I think that when I put in Jason’s French title, it came up with “Port of Shadows” and NOT whatever the hell “Le jour se leve” is…

So, disclaimer out…here’s my review for “Port of Shadows.” I strongly encourage you to watch it as it kicks total ass.

Jason, feel free to not post this review as it goes against the integrity of this exercise but you are the beloved Webmaster who can do all, so I leave it to your wise discretion.

Here goes (and sorry for the screw-up):

I absolutely love a good bitch-slap. Nothing puts a smile on my face faster than seeing some guy take it to another guy by giving him a good ol’ fashioned bitch-slap.

If there was a definition of “Bitch-Slap” it would read something like: Noun/Verb – the act of slapping someone across the face with only the fingers used, usually right-to-left and then quickly left-to-right using the back of the fingers. Ironically, usually used by men as an act of defiance against another man.

Typically, when used, the person getting slapped is, basically, having his man-hood handed to him. It’s like being spanked as an adult. It’s demoralizing, insulting, disrespectful. If I was bitch-slapped I would probably punch the other guy in the face and/or kick him in the nuts. It’s action is not to injure the other person, or oneself. It is solely there to bring someone, mentally, to their knees. Oh, and, usually…the person who is getting bitch-slapped deserves it. If not worse.

In the film “Port of Shadows” you don’t get just ONE Bitch-Slap, you get THREE!

As for the film… When I saw that the title was “Port of Shadows” I was immediately thinking that I would be watching something in the “film-noir” vein. Of course when you’ve already watched a dozen+ of these movies and assume titles will actually have something to do with what the story is about, I have found myself on the short side of the assumption. How happy I was when the title “Port of Shadows” DID fall into bits and pieces of the “film-noir” genre.

Our hero is Jean, a deserter from the French Army. I don’t know if this film is set in WWII or what, but he’s left the army and hiding out in a small French seaside town where everyone complains of the fog (though I never actually see any).

Picked up while hitch-hiking he gets in a fight with the truck driver but still ends up at his destination. Broke but with a pack of cigarettes. And in a film-noir, really, how much does the hero need?

Lost and hiding and hungry he gets invited to a small bar, the “Panama.” This is one of those “Movie Bars” where you wished one existed and would love to sit in the shadows and listen to people talk deals and discuss hit-men and ladies of ill-repute would offer their wares. Do these really exist? I have no idea. Still, it would be great if they did.

Previous to Jean’s sojourn to the “Panama” we meet a team bumbling thugs. They’re putting the pressure a guy named Zalman (or something) a guy who looks like a music professor who has spent too much time in the classroom. They question where a missing guy is and Zalman (who hates Jazz) tells him he knows nothing in a way that, of course, we know he knows everything. As much as these three thugs put pressure on Zalman we kind of know that they’re all hot-air and finger pointing. More bark, no bite.

Speaking of bark and bite, there’s a wonderfully cute dog in this film.

Once at the “Panama” Jean finds out more information about the town and the locals. He meets up with a suicidal painter (are there any other kind?), a guitar playing bar owner, a drunken guy who steals alcohol from the ship yard and the beautiful Nelly.

Jean, in his ever charming way, immediately assumes (and probably correctly) that she’s a prostitute. There to make a few bucks. She says she’s 17 and it’s not long before everyone has figured out that Jean is hiding from the military and that he needs to escape or face prosecution for something he had done (it’s not ever really explained). Needing a new identity, he hides out in the “Panama” and eats cheese and talks about love to Nelly. There, of course, is that INSTANT ATTRACTION that these stories provide. You know 15 seconds into their conversation about the pointlessness of love that they’ll fall in love and split the sheets.

Before they can continue their conversation, gun shots ring out. Seems the three thugs have followed Zalman up to the “Panama” and are trying to pressure him into giving up the info on the missing fellow and the “papers.” As in any good film noir everyone is connected with everyone and we’ll soon learn that Zalman is Nelly’s “uncle.”

After the bar owner shoots up the car, they bring in Zalman who is bleeding (but it’s not his blood). Nelly runs away because she “can’t bear to see him” and slips a few bucks into Jean’s pocket.

The next day Nelly returns to the “Panama” and she and Jean talk a walk on the docks (with the dog following). While this is going on, the painter decides to take a long walk off a short pier and leaves all his belongings, plus 850 francs, to Jean.

While they dangle their feet Nelly informs Jean that she needs to return to town. The three thugs show up and the ring leader puts a little jealousy smack-down on Nelly. Jean comes to her rescue, punching one guy in the face and bitch-slapping the ring leader not once, but TWICE! The guy almost bursts into tears which make his cohorts laugh at him.

With dog in tow Jean heads into town and, though broke still, he chooses to buy Nelly a decorative box. In pure Noir fashion, the owner of the store is Zalman (or something) and Nelly is there. It becomes obvious to her protective uncle that Jean likes her but that Jean isn’t really telling the truth a lot of the time. While drinking some cognac Nelly finds a cuff-link from the missing man and promptly faints – giving up the cuff-link to the uncle.

Still, Nelly wakes up and agrees to meet up with Jean at a carnival. When Jean returns to the “Panama” he finds the clothing, shoes, passport and the francs. After a change of clothing the owner grabs a rock and sinks the uniform in the ocean.

Jean is conflicted, though. He has feelings for Nelly but he also needs to escape and a transport ship is heading to Venezuela the next morning and he can book passage (along with this dog). But a pesky ship doctor peppers him with questions about painting…does the doctor know he’s not a painter? Or is he a clueless buffoon.

That night after meeting up with Nelly they decide to go on the bumper cars where the thugs are enjoying themselves knocking off people’s “chapeaus.” When the head thug knocks Jean’s hat off, Jean retaliates by, used guessed it. Bitch-slapping him. This time the head thug threatens to “plug him.” But, again, bark v. bite thing.

Nelly and Jean hook up (yes, literally) and admit to loving each other. He tells her that he needs to leave on the ship and she is willing to let him go (a great emotional moment in the film). But…seems a body has shown up on shore along with his uniform. Nelly knows that Jean had nothing to do with it and decides to confront her uncle.

Well, Zalman don’t like being confronted about bodies and after some expository dialogue that implies that Zalman has been molesting Nelly he starts attacking her. Jean, over-hearing what is going on, kills Zalman – violently I might add (though it’s all implied, we don’t see the blood). Now he REALLY has to escape…but he’s torn! He loves Nelly, but he doesn’t want to drag her into all this. She loves him, but wants him to be free. The boat is about to leave and HIS DOG IS ON IT!!

Running towards the boat, the head thug plugs Jean in the middle of the street with about five bullets (so we know Jean will die). In a truly romantic, beautiful moment, Nelly hugs Jean in the street and he asks her to kiss him. And the dog runs to his rescue…but it’s too late.

What I liked:

This was a great “small” film. A film that used only a few locations (store, bar, hotel, street) but made it feel much bigger.

Most of the acting was spot-on terrific. The story convoluted enough for a film-noir but not SOOOO much that you’re scratching your head about it.

I also loved the understated way that the violence that came before Jean is talked about but never shown. A sense of foreboding fills every frame. You know it’s not going to end happy but you find yourself caring for these characters anyway.

The dog.


What I didn’t like:

The spineless head thug wasn’t a strong enough of a character, to me, that these others would follow him. He was just a little too wimpy for my tastes.

The beard on Zalman seemed a bit “plastic.”

The print that Criterion used was good but not great. The quality of film stock seemed to shift DURING THE SCENES. Good print, bad print, good print.

Bottom line:

Great little noir-ish film. Very enjoyable. Hit all the right notes. Loved it!

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