Words: Brody Rossiter
A ROOM WITH A NEW VIEW
Today it is widely regarded as one the finest French films ever made, yet upon its initial release in 1939, Le Jour Se Lève (Daybreak), was greeted with a far less courteous reception. The Vichy Regime (Marshal Philippe Pétain’s puppet regime during the Nazi occupation of France) would heavily chop and change the work of director, Marcel Carné; initially cutting full scenes before later banning the picture outright – due to what they perceived as its “demoralizing” nature. Even the names of two Jewish actors were cut from the film’s opening credits due to the political tensions of the period.
To mark the film’s 75th anniversary, Le Jour Se Lève recently received a cinematic re-release, now, this affectionately restored version of the picture – featuring removed scenes and its complete credits – is available on special edition Blu-ray.
A key example of the poetic realism movement, Carné and writer, Jacques Prévert, liberally utilised the conventions of proto-noir filmmaking, resulting in a tonally romantic yet stylistically bleak picture filled with low-key black-and-white visuals and robust characterisation. Its non-linear narrative and reliance upon flashbacks to unfurl the equally tortured and starry-eyed tale of “brutish” lead protagonist, François (Jean Gabin) – a technique immediately explained via title card to the uninitiated audience of the period – clearly highlighted the film as a progressive piece of cinema illuminating the austere day-to-day of the working classes.
A tale of four primary characters that interweaves love, death, and working class fury throughout its powerful plot, the picture radiates with a newly unfiltered sense of energy and ruggedness. The restorations carried out by Studiocanal and Ico allow the gloomy visuals to somehow shine as every shadow helps shape an environment which grows more alienating with each revelatory trip to the past. A distinct and uncompromising picture that has finally been allowed to take its true form, Le Jour Se Lève is an important moment in world cinema’s history. Thanks to this release and its accompanying highly informative bonus features (revealing the restorative process and socio-political fallout of the picture) it can live forever in its full passionate glory.