Hotel du Nord DVD
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Directed by Marcel Carne
Produced in 1938
Main Language - FRENCH with English subtitles
Arletty's reputation was seriously damaged after the Second World War, when she was jailed for her affair with a German officer. Yet, in two of her five collaborations with Marcel Carné, Hôtel du Nord (1938) and Les Enfants du Paradis (1945), she had symbolised the indomitable spirit of France. She's certainly more iconic in this brooding melodrama than Annabella, despite the fact that the latter was lit like the Hollywood star she had become. But while Arletty's vibrant performance as Raymonde, the waterfront tart with a heart, transcended all attendant clichés, the film would never have been made without Annabella's commercial kudos.
Inspired by an anecdotal novel by Eugène Dabit, whose parents owned the actual Hôtel du Nord, this has always been regarded as the weakest link in Carné's pessimistic prewar trilogy that also contained Quai des Brumes (1938) and Le Jour se Lève (1939). It's usual to attribute the shortfall to the absence of regular screenwriter Jacques Prévert and the verbosity of Jean Aurenche and Henri Jeanson's dialogue. But while this may be more theatrical than other examples of poetic realism, it still captured the sense of foreboding that Jean Renoir recognised in a nation `dancing on the edge of a volcano'.
Much of this was due to art director Alexandre Trauner's meticulous recreation of Quai de Jemmapes on the banks of Paris's Canal Saint-Martin, which ranks among the finest achievements of studio realism. But the mood (or `atmosphère', as the brilliant Louis Jouvet's Edmond would have it) was also subtly reinforced by Maurice Jaubert's melancholic score and Carné's innate sympathy for people seizing what they could of life before fate closed in on them.
David Parkinson on 27th March 2006
Author of 191 reviews
Renee and Pierre take a room at the shabby Parisian Hotel du Nord with the intention of seeing through a suicide pact. Their story is intertwined with that of a pimp and a prostitute, with Jouvet and Arletty outstanding in these roles. The sets - the cramped rooms and the canal setting - are impressively atmospheric, and the film also contains one of the most famous lines in French cinema, delivered by Arletty: "Atmosphère? Atmosphère? Est-ce que j'ai une gueule d'atmosphère?"
Publisher: Soda Pictures
Length: 95 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Cat No: SODA017
Format: DVD B&W
- Stills gallery
- Original theatrical trailer
- Introduction by film historian Paul Ryan.
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