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France, 1937 (MIFF 1955, Programme 5)

Director: Julien Duvivier

It has taken eighteen years for this classic of the French screen to reach Melbourne film-goers. Widely admired and copied, it has influenced adventure film makers ever since its issue. Hollywood has paid it the compliment of re-making it in a number of versions.

Intended initially as a vehicle to exploit the tremendous personality of its star, Jean Cabin. the film grips its audiences by brilliant creation of atmosphere and character and studies its subjects with thought and patience. The colourful, infamous Casbah comes alive with its teeming population and even the minor characters become living, breathing personalities that remain in the viewer's mind long after the end of the film.

Pepe, played by Jean Gabin, is a jaunty Parisian jewel thief, driven to bay in the Casbah. There he rules the thieves and cut-throats and lives with a devoted native girl. He dreams, however, of the bright lights of Paris and of escape, and comes to look upon the safety of his underworld hideout as a cell, secure as any prison.

When a pretty visitor comes into the Casbah, the call of the outside world is too strong for Pepe. His visions of flight end at a symbolic and fatal iron gate which bars his way to liberty. As his hopes vanish with the slowly departing ship the police close in and overtake him.

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