#103 Pépé le Moko (1937)

Our next film on this seemingly never-ending list is a star-crossed love story set in the unique, foreign French section of Casbah in Algiers. Pépé le Moko is when a criminal on the run falls in love with a beautiful Parisian woman that could compromise his situation with the police.

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Think of this film as the French version of Casablanca in which a man is lonely but considers the Casbah to be his safe haven away from a lengthly jail sentence. I consider the Casbah to be treated as a very important component in this film as we see a place where different races and nations have come together in this one place. This is a place that the police are afraid to enter because of just how different it is from other places- making it the perfect hideout for Pépé. Then Gaby comes along and sparkles Pépé with her jewels and he’s hooked. He wants to leave with her but fear of being caught by the police conflicts his decision. You can already get the sense that one of them will say “We’ll always have Paris.” The dramatic climax that occurs is completely epic and powerful that will leave you emotional by the end.

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Pépé Le Moko became an international hit when it was released but unfortunately didn’t hit the U.S. until four years later. Why? Because the U.S. decided to remake the film called Algiers which was very successful in the U.S. The director of the remake Walter Wanger wanted to destroy all copies of the original but luckily that didn’t occur. I wonder why he wanted to do that. Could it be so he could claim the idea of Algiers all to himself? Suspicious… So because of the success of Algiers, Wanger felt compelled to finally release Pépé Le Moko and audiences loved it. A musical was made based on this film as well as a Warner Brothers cartoon. Wanger was this close to destroying a French classic and we’re very happy it still exists.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a copy online. Here’s the trailer for the film and you can find the full film if you have a Hulu account:

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#102 A Day in the Country (1936)

There are cities, suburbs, deserts, and farms that all have the potential to be beautiful on the silver screen. This next film shows off the countryside as if you’re seeing an exquisite landscape painting come to life. Jean Renoir’s A Day in the Country is when a French family spend the day in the countryside and the daughter finds romance.

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The sun is shining, the wind is blowing, the grass is growing. We are looking at the beautiful countryside. Since Jean Renoir was the son of famous Impressionistic artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir, it makes sense how he was able to make this film have a strong resemblance to his father’s paintings. The setting of this film was in Paris 1860 so there were no cellphones, iPads, or iPods to use up our time with in the great outdoors. Just listening to the breeze, sitting on the grass, swinging with your mother, having a picnic, and rowing in the Seine was considered a pastime. It’s a shame that this film could not have been in color at the time to add even more to the beauty.

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Jean-Auguste Renoir would paint countryside landscapes of women with big hats sitting on the long grass enjoying each other’s company and boat rides in the Seine which mirror the nature surrounding. All of those elements exist in Jean Renoir’s film. We also see just how hard love was for women in the 19th century as they were always to be chaperoned and not to be alone in the company of strange men. As Henriette and Henri (gender reversed names. Coincidence? I think not!) have their brief yet passionate romance, we see an alluring shot of a tear trickling down Henriette’s face- an accurate truth of how freedom was so hard to come by for these women. 

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Believe it or not, while this film was always meant to be 40 minutes, this film was left incomplete. I was able to tell during the final conclusion how it seemed the wrap up so quickly. Were you able to notice? I gave the ending a lot of credit for its realism. That is because since it would not stop raining during production, Renoir decided to stop production of the film altogether and move onto the production of other films. Producer Pierre Braunberger edited all of the footage together and released the film ten years later. This should teach upcoming filmmakers that having unfinished work is not always the worst case scenario. To not let all of the hard work go to waste and to make lemonade with the lemons you have.

Unfortunately, I could not find an online copy of the film but you can rent it on Amazon for $2.99. Here is a behind the scenes video of the classic French work of art and please comment your thoughts: