Saturday, September 6, 2008
Another Gabin Gem Makes Its Way to U.S. DVD!
Jean Gabin and Michele Morgan on the set of director Jean Gremillon's "Remorques" (1939/1941).
Last month I announced the arrival of two Gabin movies on DVD -- Gabin's 1942 film "Moontide," out via Fox Video, and director Max Ophuls' anthology/tryptych from 1952, "Le Plaisir," on Criterion.
Well, a third hard-to-find Gabin classic has just been released quietly via a smaller label: It's director Jean Gremillion's outstanding Remorques, the literal title of which is "Tugboats" and the US title of which is Stormy Waters. Directed by the vastly underrated Poetic Realist Jean Gremillon, Remorques was filmed in 1939, and released in France in 1941. (The reason for the delayed release is that, about 90% into the film's production, Gabin was conscripted into the French Navy and had to take a year off from completing his scenes.)
The harrowing, fantastic, and relatively unknown (in America) Remorques is the last of the dark/heart-rending Poetic Realist films pictures in which Gabin starred in the late '30s, the moody 'tragic drifter' period during which he also made Quai des brumes, La Bete humaine, and Le Jour se leve, which are similar to Remorques in tone -- and this one is equally as good. It re-teams Gabin with Michele Morgan for the third time, after 1938's Le Recif corail and 1939's Le Quai des brumes, and the ending is so haunting, it's one of those rare films where, when it's over, you won't be able to get up for a few minutes. It's that great.
In Remorques, Gabin plays a disillusioned (when is he not?) tugboat captain, who's thrown over his physically ill wife in favor of a fetching stranger, played by Michele Morgan (who wouldn't do that)?
The title was originally released on VHS in the '80s by the now defunct Video Yesteryear, and a new retailer has purchased the rights to the entire Video Yesteryear catalog, and is selling the Video Yesteryear films, including Remorques, mostly through eBay:
The Video Yesteryear copy of Remorques is dubbed into English, it's shorter than the uncut French version (which is, in fact, better) and it hasn't been restored like many of Gabin's other films have -- but until the day that Remorques gets the Criterion treatment, if you're a Gabin completist, you'll definitely want to make this version of the picture a part of your collection.