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Port of Shadows (The Criterion Collection) (1939)

Jean Gabin , Michel Simon , Marcel Carné  |  Unrated |  DVD
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

Price: $65.95 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Product Details

  • Actors: Jean Gabin, Michel Simon, Michèle Morgan, Pierre Brasseur, Édouard Delmont
  • Directors: Marcel Carné
  • Writers: Jacques Prévert, Pierre Dumarchais
  • Producers: Gregor Rabinovitch
  • Format: Black & White, Full Screen, Special Edition, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: July 20, 2004
  • Run Time: 91 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00026L74U
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,733 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Port of Shadows (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features

  • New digital transfer with restored image and sound plus new subtitle translation
  • Poster gallery
  • 32-page booklet including a new essay by acclaimed cultural historian Luc Sante

Editorial Reviews

Down a foggy, desolate road to the port city of Le Havre travels Jean (Jean Gabin), an army deserter looking for another chance to make good on life. Fate, however, has a different plan for him, when acts of both revenge and kindness turn him into front-page news. Also starring the blue-eyed phenomenon Michèle Morgan in her first major role, and the menacing Michel Simon, Port of Shadows (Le Quai des brumes) starkly portrays an underworld of lonely souls wrestling with their own destinies. Based on the novel by Pierre Mac Orlan, the inimitable team of director Marcel Carné and writer Jacques Prévert deliver a quintessential example of poetic realism, one of the classics of the golden age of French cinema.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
Jean (Jean Gabin), a deserting soldier, emerges out the darkness as an approaching truck's lights cut through the night. The truck driver offers Jean a ride which he gladly accepts as he is weary from his long journey away from his dark past in the French military, a past that Jean wants to escape as it brings him pain and anxiousness, which haunts his restless mind. Weariness and dreadful memories brings Jean into a foggy world where he drifts between sleep and awareness while the truck is traveling in the direction of the French port city of Le Havre, which is equally foggy and full of threats.

Hopeful, Jean arrives to Le Havre where he intends to find a new beginning to his life, and where he can discard his past. A port city offers several opportunities for a person such as Jean to embark on new journeys as the port is full of ships leaving each day for new destinations. Through the help of some strangers that Jean meets at a worn down tavern he begins to find a light, which could help guide him back on track to a new life. However, the fog remains as Jean's destiny has different plans for him as his good nature seems to affect the people he meets.

Port of Shadows is a poetic visualization of a realistic story, which Carne gave a magic touch to by using visual signs to enhance the cinematic experience. These signs have a symbolic value for the audience as it offers cerebral participation in the film, which can be pondered for some time. The symbolism of the fog and use of a port city has a profound effect on the films cinematic value as it may causes some cognitive dissonance as both coexist and could be associated with opposite notions. An example of this symbolic antagonism for the fog and the port is the freedom of a port and the barrier of the fog.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sad, sad, sad... mesmerizing July 27, 2004
When I first saw this movie I thought it was one of the saddest and most beautiful films I'd ever seen, which I still think today. The fugitive, the melancholic painter, the abused girl, the ship, and the dog, oh yes, the dog will break your heart and duly so. This was the kind of movie Marcel Carné used to make, sad and beautiful, effortless, peerless, unforgettable. He later made Children of Paradise, which is far more ambitious than Port of Shadows in narrative and production terms and although Children of Paradise is usually considered his greatest film, I'd be hard pressed to tell which of the two is more ravishing. Children is a luxurious opera; Port is a mesmerizing chamber piece.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Poetic Coincidences? July 22, 2007
An example of poetic realism, the French film movement (atmosphere would be more precise) between WWI and WWII, Port of Shadows is heavy on coincidence beginning, arguably, with the truck driver who transports Jean, the Jean Gabin character (and us) into the film. Jean hasn't eaten for two days and is given free food by an innkeeper; he meets a girl and the attraction is mutual; he needs new clothes and a passport so an artist commits suicide and leaves both to him, etc.

All of this would make for a predictable run-of-the-mill thing except for the fact that there is more than coincidence going on here and that the coincidences themselves are in many ways of little concern to the point of the film. Indeed, it seems that the filmmakers used coincidence as a way of dispensing with nettlesome plot necessities in order to focus more intently on what they wanted the film to convey. What it does convey, and quite nicely, is the sense of impending doom, a haunted past (Jean is a deserter who seems to harbor darker secrets in his past), the venality and corruptability of man, love gained and lost, and the futility of daily life when stacked against all of that. Hardly a sunny romp in the woods (somehow the fog seems to linger even in bright sunlight), but an entertaining film nonetheless.

Aside from the coincidences and the atmosphere, another interesting aspect is the way in which the Gabin character exits outside of society. A deserter (and one sense that he joined the army only a way to escape some former social unit), he has left behind that society in search of, not really another one, but perhaps a way to live outside any society at all, at least until he meets the girl.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Overlooked Cinematic Gem February 16, 2011
After watching Children of Paradise, the 1945 film written by Jacques Prévert and directed by Marcel Carné, I felt that I had seen one of the most beautiful films ever made and was intrigued by what else Carné's filmography had to offer. I decided to follow up that film up with this film, also written by Prévert and based on a novel by Pierre Mac Orlan. Port of Shadows, released in 1938, is the first masterpiece by Carné and is one of the great hidden gems of cinema.

Jean (Jean Gabin) is a military deserter who stumbles into the fog-shrouded town of Le Havre, looking to get out of the country. The foggy landscape is an atmospheric foreshadowing of what will unfold for the characters. Jean, who finds himself accompanied by a small dog (one of the most loyal, loveable canine's I've seen on film), finds shelter in a shack at the edge of the water where he meets 17-year-old Nelly (Michèle Morgan). Nelly comes with her own personal baggage, including a missing boyfriend, a shady godfather named Zabel (Michel Simon), and a local hood named Lucien. Intending to depart the following day on a ship to Venezuela, Jean falls for Nelly despite the obstacles standing in their way.

Port of Shadows is so terrific on nearly every level it's unfathomable to me that someone could not like it. There are people who hold foreign films and/or black & white films in disdain, but even such biased viewers should find something here that appeals to them. Besides being just masterful on a cinematic level, it's actually very entertaining with scenes scattered throughout that range from tense to exciting to comedic to romantic.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece.
There are films that are so special! And directors who are so talented! And writers who are so brilliant! And actors who are so extraordinary! Read more
Published 4 months ago by R. de Aquino
5.0 out of 5 stars These shadows say so much...
I think I'm in love with Jean Gabin. He was honestly one of the finest actors of his generation, maybe the finest. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Andrew Ellington
1.0 out of 5 stars Typical Slow Euro Film.
Slow and non-eventful even for a Euro film. Goes on and on then finally something happens at half way point then something at the end. Read more
Published on January 24, 2012 by Shock Writer
5.0 out of 5 stars Carne and Gabin Working Together Like a Dream
In "Le quai des brumes" ("Port of Shadows") (1939) a black and white film noir crime/ drama/romance/thriller, and another bleak classic of French cinema, the extraordinary French... Read more
Published on August 31, 2010 by Stephanie De Pue
4.0 out of 5 stars much superior to Children of Paradise
Marcel Carne is well known for directing Children of Paradise, a quaint but inoffensive film that's actually mediocre. Read more
Published on December 20, 2008 by Justin R.
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful film
I first watched this film in an international film class in college. It struck me the first time I saw it, and I had to have it. It's an excellent film, way ahead of it's time. Read more
Published on August 24, 2007 by S. Bealey
5.0 out of 5 stars T'AS DE BEAUX YEUX, TU SAIS !
Marcel Carné's PORT OF SHADOWS (Le Quai des Brumes) belongs to the list of movies we had to see in school in the seventies. Read more
Published on March 12, 2007 by Daniel S.
3.0 out of 5 stars Improvisational train wreck
What happens when the director shoots a movie without a plot or a point or even a script and lets his famous actors improvise amok? The Port of Shadows. Read more
Published on December 9, 2006 by Noirist
4.0 out of 5 stars Shadows & Fog
I first became aware of director Marcel Carne when I saw "Children of Paradise". In a review I wrote on here for that movie I said to call it a masterpiece is to understate it's... Read more
Published on March 26, 2006 by Alex Udvary
4.0 out of 5 stars A very nice french film
This review is for the Criterion Collection DVD edition of the film.

"Port of Shadows" known in France as "Le quai des brumes" is an excellent film. Read more
Published on February 20, 2005 by Ted
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