Thursday, February 12, 2009
2009 starts out with an embarrassment of riches for Jean Gabin fans.
Not one, not two, but three (3) Jean Gabin movies are being released on DVD. And none of these titles has ever been released on home video with English subtitles. When I originally watched these three films to research them for my book WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR, THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN, I was relying on French language DVDs with no English subtitles at all, and watching them with 'human translators' who provided simultaneous French-to-English translations for me (me, with my limited -- or, should I say, non-existent -- French), so these three releases are really unexpected treats.
1. RAZZIA SUR LA CHNOUF (1955), directed by Henri Decoin is, for me, the best of the many film noir thrillers in which Jean Gabin starred in the 1950s, and in my personal opinion, it even edges out Gabin's noir film which is universally acknowledged as being "the important one" -- director Jacques Becker's Touchez pas au grisbi (1954). In Razzia, as in the previous year's Grisbi, Gabin portrays a gentleman-gangster who's uncovering corruption within his own crime organization, and both films share the same tone. Razzia, though, is more 'trippy' and experimental than Grisbi, and features a few scenes (particularly one set in a bar) which I would characterize as being 'pre-psychedelic,' and kind of anticipative of some of the wilder moments in Orson Welles' Touch of Evil, which would come two years later. IMPORTANT NOTE: The English subtitled DVD of Razzia sur la chnouf is not an 'official' release, which is to say that it's a high-end bootleg, but the transfer and the electronic subtitles are very high quality. You can only buy the subtitled version from this on-line merchant -- www.notavailableondvd.com -- and this is important to remember, because there are legitimate DVDs of Razzia available on Amazon.com (US) and Amazon. fr (France), but they do NOT have subtitles. The DVD comes in a plain envelope -- there's no cover-art or extras, but at $12.50 ($10 + 2.50 postage), it's a great buy, and notavailableondvd.com ships fast. This DVD is a February 2009 release.
2. GAS-OIL (1955): Another brand new Jean Gabin DVD release, also 'unofficial' and available with English subtitles ONLY from one on-line seller, is director Gilles Grangier's Gas-Oil, a terrific picture which also happen to be the only movie to co-star Jean Gabin with another French icon, Jeanne Moreau, although Moreau did have a small, supporting role in the previous year's Touchez pas au grisbi. In this picture (which was almost entitled Hi-Jack Highway) as in the following year's Des gens sans importance, Gabin is a trucker (he even drives the truck himself, according to the credits!)who's on the lam from the mob, because they think he's stolen their cache of cash. In the 1950s, American 'car culture' spread to the world, so you get movies like Rebel Without a Cause and Robert Mitchum's Thunder Road in the US, and Gas-Oil in France. If you want to see this DVD with English subtitles, you get it from this excellent online seller, 'Senor Noir,' who also happens to sell a lot of other great international noirs on DVD, and the best news is that it's only $9, including postage. This is a February 2009 release. http://www.ioffer.com/i/Rare-DVD-NOIRS-CRIME-DRAMA-FILMS-Free-Shipping-55224356
3. L'AIR DE PARIS (1954): In March 2009, we get an "official" release, L'Air de Paris , and this movie now has English subtitles for the very first time, as well. This is the picture which reunited Jean Gabin with director and co-star from 1939's Le Jour se leve, Marcel Carne and Arletty, to which it is a worthy follow-up. In this movie, Gabin is a former boxer who takes a young protege (actor Roland Lesaffre, who passed away on February 3, 2009) and trains him to be France's new champion, much to the chagrin of Gabin's wife (Arletty) who feels that Gabin is spending more time with the protege than with her -- so it's kind of a love-triangle, and it's also just as worthy a film about boxing as Raging Bull, Body and Soul, and Champion. Optimum Home Video is releasing this title on March 16, 2009, and you can pre-order it from Amazon.co.uk (British Amazon.com); note that this is a Region 2/'PAL'-system DVD, which means that while it won't play on conventional American 'NTSC' DVD players, you CAN play it on your computer's DVD drive, OR you can buy an international DVD player for less than $200 from various on-line sellers (just Google "codeless DVD player"); it's a good idea to have an international DVD player anyway, if you're a serious movie buff, because there a lot of great movies available on DVD in Europe which aren't available on DVD in the US. (Of course, you can order from British Amazon.com if you live anywhere in the world, and Amazon converts the 'pounds sterling' to 'dollars' on your credit card statement.)
BREAKING NEWS! POST-SCRIPT: It's now March 2nd, and I have just learned that an eBay seller based in Korea is selling a "Region Free" DVD of "L'Air de Paris" with English subtitles, which you can play on any DVD player in the world -- including ALL American DVD players. It's only $11.99 + $2.99 for shipment to the US. I bought one for myself and the quality is excellent, and the seller's turnaround time is fast. Here's the info for this eBay seller:
So: How about that?! Not one, not two, but three great Jean Gabin movies, available on DVD with English subtitles for the first time!
To learn more about Razzia sur la chnouf, Gas-Oil, and L'Air de Paris, read my book WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN, VOLUMES ONE AND TWO.