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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 16, No. 18. September 18, 1952

Rich's Film Festival Continues

Rich's Film Festival Continues

Marcel Carne and Prevert, of "Les Enfants Du Paradis" fame, now give us a more realistic and less romantic film, "Let Portes de la Nuit": and from Julien Duvivior, "Pantique," which is adapted from a Simenon story. Both these films are pessimistic; but, nevertheless, they represent a pessimism that is not deep, cynical or strongly realistic but romantic and slightly superficial.

The first of these, "Les Portes de la Nuit," is obviously symbolical. Set in a rather melancholy Paris following the first thrills and cole-brations of the Liberation, we discover that, war or no war, Destiny still roams the streets, enters the houses and interferes with people's [unclear: lives]. He is the musician at the corner of the street and around him children dance to the tunes of his mouthorgan. They alter the pace, rhythm and moods of their lives to keep in time to Destiny's music "But." he affirms, "the world is as it is. Do not count on me to give you the key... I'm not the jailor... I'm Destiny... I come... I go... that is all."

Around Destiny, the young lovers of the story have been dancing to the same tunc for years; but at last he brings them together, watching their first meeting in the deserted garage that is full of statues, statues that are broken, disfigured. From then on the lives of the lovers and those of the evil around them are, in the course of one night, inevitably drawn into the pattern woven by Destiny from which there is no escape but the final tragic death of the girl. "Alas" says Destiny, I warned them, but they wouldn't listen to me." Don't be mistaken, however! We are all like the heroine of the Hans Anderson fatty tale: we must go on dancing and the tunes we dance to are Destiny's.

So there we have the symbolism of Destiny (or at least, part of it) and if that's all "Les Ports de la Nuit" has to offer then it's a little shallow. The film goes further. Not only is Destiny concerned with the doings of the young lovers, but much of his time is devoted to the film's materialists, who out of envy and hatred want to destroy love are beauty, make statues fit for a junk heap. These are the men who push good music aside (Beethoven's, Egmont Overture actually. Anything symbolic in that ?) in their power-grabbing desire to rule our material destinies. They fight to destroy a beautiful love affair and win. But all that is left, with good and beauty gone, is a void of unhappiness and a sort of "melancholy fatalism."

Prevert and Carne have chosen to play all this symbolism against a background of realism. In doing so they have succeeded in giving more emphasis to, and making more moving the points made. Realism is conveyed by the usual methods. The whole film is photographed with low key lighting and shape contrasts between the black and white: Carne has concentrated on attention to detail and he has not let his camera Ignore anything that may be unpleasant to the eye. He also uses natural sounds such as barking dogs, and laughing women and man-made sounds of distant jazz bands and passing trains. Ail this adds up to an illusion of reality and having perfected this setting, Carne's direction (except for an occasional over-elaboration) is as good as Prevert's script lets it be.

For it seems that Prevert now completely dominates Carne. He has handed him a script that is too much of an outlet for Prevert's wild literary imagination, too much of an excuse for the pouring forth of poetic phrases and philosophy-tinted lines. "Les Portes de la Nuit" is, in fact, too long for its story, in spite of its symbolism. For T. C. Mits what could have been an exciting melodramatic love story, has developed into a monumental bore: for me it is saved because really it was great fun working out the symbolism!