by guest writer
Since the moment he became a star with Julien Duvivier’s Maria Chapdelaine (1934), Gabin had begun a series of successful movies that ended with Remorques (1941), due to the beginning of WWII, when he fled to the US to meet his friend Jean Renoir. The approach taken by the director in this movie is quite surprising. At the debut you find Lucien entering a French town with his regiment. He is the idol of all women and everybody knows his reputation of Don Juan. The first half of the film you get the notion of a comedy, but then everything changes when he meets mysterious Madeleine (Mireille Balin). Jean Grémillon makes a sudden turn to the poetic realist side, where fatalism seems to take over.
Lucien’s obsession with Madeleine becomes unbearable and, from this moment on, he will change his life to please her and keep her by his side. Madeleine is the stereotyped femme fatale, usually seen in film noir. Every aspect in her behaviour leads us to this conclusion. Gueule d’amour uses a wonderful black and white cinematography signed by Günther Rittau, with depth of field and breathtaking chiaroscuro lighting. Jean Grémillon’s own editing of the movie is not coincidental, as he only chooses fragments suggestive for his conveyed message. Jean Gabin takes over the entire movie with one of the best performances in cinema’s history. He is in a class of his own and I’m sure that you will agree with us.
photos: stills captured by Classiq from this DVD edition / credit: L’Alliance Cinématographique Européenne, Universum Film