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Jean Gabin in
LA TRAVERSÉE DE PARIS

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Director Claude Autant-Lara
Cast Jean Gabin, Bourvil, Louis de Funès
Screenplay Jean Aurenche, Pierre Bost
Cinematography Jacques Natteau
1956 | France | Approx. 80 min. | French with English subtitles

(1956) In a cold, hungrily-rationed, blacked-out City of Lights under the Occupation (an experience only a decade past for the contemporary audience), a transaction involving worth-its-weight-in-gold black market pork from crabby, penny-pinching Montmartre butcher Louis de Funès (soon to be France’s long-time top box office draw, in comedies like The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob) is carried out like a modern-day drug deal. But straight arrow ex-cabbie/black-marketeer Bourvil (winner, Best Actor at Venice; legendary in France for his gormless comic persona, known here for his change-of-pace role in Melville’s Le Cercle Rouge) can’t possibly manage the four-bags-full trek across nocturnal Paris himself, so he recruits meat-mooching, garrulous stranger-he-met-at-the-bar Jean Gabin – an adventurer who keeps getting them into, and then hilariously talking them out of, trouble with both the Germans and French police, as Bourvil’s nervous sweat pools in the gutter. But there’s a chilling, class-laden final twist. From the team of screenwriters Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost (Forbidden Games) and director Autant-Lara, favorite whipping boys of the up-and-coming New Wave, especially young critic François Truffaut – who conceded that this was a masterpiece. Aka A Pig Across Paris. In French, with English subtitles. Approx. 80 mins.

Reviews

“THE MOST EXHILARATING KIND OF CRAZY COMEDY.”
– David Edelstein, New York Magazine

“EXPLOSIVELY FUNNY! Bourvil was selected best actor at Venice, but the star of the film is Gabin, lusty and powerful as the man who enjoys life so much he can play games with it. In the middle of sordid little perils, the artist devises quick-witted solutions, and then howls with delight, ‘This pig’s making a genius of me!’ The contrast between him and the terrified, sweating fellow at his side makes you know you’re watching a fable, but Autant-Lara shows class – he doesn’t tie it with a ribbon and hand it to you.”
– Pauline Kael

“TIMELESS! One of the most realistic, most caustic, most pitch-perfect films about what it meant to live in Paris under the Occupation.”
– Bertrand Tavernier

“A HIGH POINT OF THE FRENCH CINEMA OF THE 1950s! One of the few films about the Occupation that seems to ring true…even the young Truffaut, who had systematically attacked Autant-Lara as the symbol of all that was wrong with the French cinema, recognized that in this film the director has at least ‘found the subject of his life, a script that really suited him.’”
– Richard Roud

“The New Wave critics usually expressed disdain for carefully devised products of ‘the French tradition of quality’ like this, but even the combative François Truffaut placed La Traversée de Paris among the best films of its year.”
– Dave Kehr, The New York Times

“I admire, without any real reservations, La Traversée de Paris. I think it's a complete success because Autant-Lara has finally found the subject he's been waiting for—a plot that is made in his own image, a story that his truculence, tendency toward exaggeration, roughness, vulgarity, and outrage, far from serving badly, elevates to an epic. ... A verve much like Céline's and an insistent ferocity dominate the movie, but it is saved from meanness by a few emotional notes that overwhelm us, particularly those in the final scenes.”
– François Truffaut

“BEST FILM OF THE YEAR!”
– French Film Critics Awards, 1956

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