Leur Derniere Nuit


1h 31m 1953

Brief Synopsis

A schoolteacher falls for a librarian who's secretly the head of a criminal ring.

Photos & Videos

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Release Date
1953

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 31m

Synopsis

A schoolteacher falls for a librarian who's secretly the head of a criminal ring.

Photo Collections

Leur derniere nuit - Movie Poster
Here is an original French movie poster for Leur derniere nuit (1953), starring Jean Gabin, Madeleine Robinson, and Michel Barbey.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Release Date
1953

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 31m

Articles

Leur Derniere Nuit aka Their Last Night (1953) - Leur Derniere Nuit (Their Last Night)


In 1953, Jean Gabin, though still one of France's biggest stars, was no longer the glorious icon of such films as Julien Duvivier's Pépé le Moko (1937), Jean Renoir's La bête humaine (The Human Beast, 1938), and Marcel Carné's Le jour se lève (Daybreak, 1939), which had established him as the preeminent figure of doomed romanticism in world cinema. Disappointed by his brief Hollywood sojourn in the early years of the German Occupation, Gabin returned to France and joined the Free French Forces. After the Liberation, Gabin turned to reviving his acting career but found himself, to some extent, a victim of his own legend. In a 1950 essay, critic André Bazin, noting the change in the star's appearance -- "he is older, his formerly blond hair is gray, his face has grown fatter" -- reflected that "Gabin could not remain the same forever, but neither could he escape from a mythology that is so solidly established."

Gabin's character in Carné's La Marie du port (Marie of the Port, 1949) is linked, as Edward Baron Turk writes in Child of Paradise: Marcel Carné and the Golden Age of French Cinema, "to the spirit of economic reconstruction and political conservatism that would shape much of France's history in the early and mid-1950s. The screen destiny of Gabin, gray-haired, stylishly groomed, and a productive member of the capitalist establishment, is no longer violent death from entanglement with a sultry femme fatale, but marriage to a shrewd young social climber." According to Raymond Borde and Étienne Chaumeton (A Panorama of American Film Noir, 1941-1953), the Gabin of the early Fifties "embodies the small French capitalist who owes his wealth to the war years." The contradictions between a middle-aged, comfortable Gabin and the tragic proletarian hero of his younger years may have created some dissonance for French audiences and perhaps bothered the actor himself.

It would not be until the release of Jacques Becker's Touchez pas au grisbi (Grisbi) in 1954 that a definitive postwar Gabin would emerge. In this magnificent gangster film, Gabin acquires a new mystique that has three components: acceptance of aging, commitment to long-standing male friendship, and tacit but deep fidelity to French cultural traditions. This mixture proved popular with French audiences and would be repeated, with variations, in a number of later Gabin performances.

Gabin's last film before Touchez pas au grisbi, Leur dernière nuit (Their Last Night, 1953), proposes a different way of handling the various dimensions of Gabin's screen persona. Here, the postwar Gabin role of the solid, well-adjusted middle-aged bourgeois -- represented by the mild-mannered librarian Pierre Ruffin -- is merely a pose designed to conceal his character's activities as Fernand, leader of a gang of thieves. Behind both identities lies a savage misanthropy, together with a despairing romanticism that links this mysterious and paradoxical character to the great Gabin figures of the late Thirties. Leur dernière nuit finds a place for the prewar Gabin in the postwar world by suggesting that his character's surface conformity is just a mask for a radical refusal of accommodation.

The film was directed by Georges Lacombe, who had previously worked with Gabin on Martin Roumagnac (1946) and La nuit est mon royaume (Night Is My Kingdom, 1951). A former assistant to René Clair and Jean Grémillon, Lacombe had directed feature films since the early 1930s, working diligently in a variety of genres without attracting much critical attention. In the years after Leur dernière nuit, he would work increasingly in television. According to Philippe Barbier and Jacques Moreau, the authors of a recent biography of Gabin, "Georges Lacombe is a very great French director whose filmography (often unjustly ignored by film encyclopedias) remains today, perhaps, yet to be rediscovered." If few film scholars share this high opinion of Lacombe's talent, it must be admitted that most of his work is very obscure. Of his three collaborations with Gabin, Leur dernière nuit is probably the least well known.

One of the most ingenious aspects of the film is the characterization of the heroine, the young schoolteacher Madeleine, as a female counterpart to Gabin's figure. Played by the distinguished French actress Madeleine Robinson, Madeleine is another split personality, with a dark side of her own that explains her attraction to Ruffin/Fernand. In the best scene of the film, the couple share dinner and small talk in a hotel room to the accompaniment of music from a nearby dance hall. The understated naturalism of the scene, bolstered by the working-class atmosphere generated by the music and the setting, draws on a tradition of French cinema with which Gabin was closely associated, the poetic realism of the late Thirties. At the same time, the pair form an outlaw couple in a way that links Leur dernière nuit to such American films as You Only Live Once (1937) and High Sierra (1941).

Thanks to the greater latitude French cinema offered in treating sexual matters, Leur dernière nuit is also able to include a situation that might have enhanced any number of American film noirs, had they not been restrained by the Production Code: to elude the police, Ruffin/Fernand picks up a prostitute and spends the night with her in a cheap hotel. The distinctive flavor of French film noir (after all, "film noir" was originally a French term), evoked by film scholar Tim Palmer as "a mise-en-scène of 1950s Paris as a city of shadows, an urban milieu posed between decay and modernization," is partly due to scenes such as this. It's also due in great part to Gabin, who can be seen here at a crucial point in his career.

Producer: Edouard Harispuru
Director: Georges Lacombe
Screenplay: Jacques Celhay, Georges Lacombe, based on a novel by Jacques Constant
Cinematography: Philippe Agostini
Film Editing: Raymond Leboursier
Art Direction: Léon Barsacq
Music: Francis Lopez
Cast: Jean Gabin (Pierre Ruffin/Fernand), Madeleine Robinson (Madeleine Marsan), Robert Dalban (Inspector Dupré), Jean-Jacques Delbo (Antoine), Suzanne Dantès (Miss Mercier).
BW-95m.

by Chris Fujiwara
Leur Derniere Nuit Aka Their Last Night (1953) - Leur Derniere Nuit (Their Last Night)

Leur Derniere Nuit aka Their Last Night (1953) - Leur Derniere Nuit (Their Last Night)

In 1953, Jean Gabin, though still one of France's biggest stars, was no longer the glorious icon of such films as Julien Duvivier's Pépé le Moko (1937), Jean Renoir's La bête humaine (The Human Beast, 1938), and Marcel Carné's Le jour se lève (Daybreak, 1939), which had established him as the preeminent figure of doomed romanticism in world cinema. Disappointed by his brief Hollywood sojourn in the early years of the German Occupation, Gabin returned to France and joined the Free French Forces. After the Liberation, Gabin turned to reviving his acting career but found himself, to some extent, a victim of his own legend. In a 1950 essay, critic André Bazin, noting the change in the star's appearance -- "he is older, his formerly blond hair is gray, his face has grown fatter" -- reflected that "Gabin could not remain the same forever, but neither could he escape from a mythology that is so solidly established." Gabin's character in Carné's La Marie du port (Marie of the Port, 1949) is linked, as Edward Baron Turk writes in Child of Paradise: Marcel Carné and the Golden Age of French Cinema, "to the spirit of economic reconstruction and political conservatism that would shape much of France's history in the early and mid-1950s. The screen destiny of Gabin, gray-haired, stylishly groomed, and a productive member of the capitalist establishment, is no longer violent death from entanglement with a sultry femme fatale, but marriage to a shrewd young social climber." According to Raymond Borde and Étienne Chaumeton (A Panorama of American Film Noir, 1941-1953), the Gabin of the early Fifties "embodies the small French capitalist who owes his wealth to the war years." The contradictions between a middle-aged, comfortable Gabin and the tragic proletarian hero of his younger years may have created some dissonance for French audiences and perhaps bothered the actor himself. It would not be until the release of Jacques Becker's Touchez pas au grisbi (Grisbi) in 1954 that a definitive postwar Gabin would emerge. In this magnificent gangster film, Gabin acquires a new mystique that has three components: acceptance of aging, commitment to long-standing male friendship, and tacit but deep fidelity to French cultural traditions. This mixture proved popular with French audiences and would be repeated, with variations, in a number of later Gabin performances. Gabin's last film before Touchez pas au grisbi, Leur dernière nuit (Their Last Night, 1953), proposes a different way of handling the various dimensions of Gabin's screen persona. Here, the postwar Gabin role of the solid, well-adjusted middle-aged bourgeois -- represented by the mild-mannered librarian Pierre Ruffin -- is merely a pose designed to conceal his character's activities as Fernand, leader of a gang of thieves. Behind both identities lies a savage misanthropy, together with a despairing romanticism that links this mysterious and paradoxical character to the great Gabin figures of the late Thirties. Leur dernière nuit finds a place for the prewar Gabin in the postwar world by suggesting that his character's surface conformity is just a mask for a radical refusal of accommodation. The film was directed by Georges Lacombe, who had previously worked with Gabin on Martin Roumagnac (1946) and La nuit est mon royaume (Night Is My Kingdom, 1951). A former assistant to René Clair and Jean Grémillon, Lacombe had directed feature films since the early 1930s, working diligently in a variety of genres without attracting much critical attention. In the years after Leur dernière nuit, he would work increasingly in television. According to Philippe Barbier and Jacques Moreau, the authors of a recent biography of Gabin, "Georges Lacombe is a very great French director whose filmography (often unjustly ignored by film encyclopedias) remains today, perhaps, yet to be rediscovered." If few film scholars share this high opinion of Lacombe's talent, it must be admitted that most of his work is very obscure. Of his three collaborations with Gabin, Leur dernière nuit is probably the least well known. One of the most ingenious aspects of the film is the characterization of the heroine, the young schoolteacher Madeleine, as a female counterpart to Gabin's figure. Played by the distinguished French actress Madeleine Robinson, Madeleine is another split personality, with a dark side of her own that explains her attraction to Ruffin/Fernand. In the best scene of the film, the couple share dinner and small talk in a hotel room to the accompaniment of music from a nearby dance hall. The understated naturalism of the scene, bolstered by the working-class atmosphere generated by the music and the setting, draws on a tradition of French cinema with which Gabin was closely associated, the poetic realism of the late Thirties. At the same time, the pair form an outlaw couple in a way that links Leur dernière nuit to such American films as You Only Live Once (1937) and High Sierra (1941). Thanks to the greater latitude French cinema offered in treating sexual matters, Leur dernière nuit is also able to include a situation that might have enhanced any number of American film noirs, had they not been restrained by the Production Code: to elude the police, Ruffin/Fernand picks up a prostitute and spends the night with her in a cheap hotel. The distinctive flavor of French film noir (after all, "film noir" was originally a French term), evoked by film scholar Tim Palmer as "a mise-en-scène of 1950s Paris as a city of shadows, an urban milieu posed between decay and modernization," is partly due to scenes such as this. It's also due in great part to Gabin, who can be seen here at a crucial point in his career. Producer: Edouard Harispuru Director: Georges Lacombe Screenplay: Jacques Celhay, Georges Lacombe, based on a novel by Jacques Constant Cinematography: Philippe Agostini Film Editing: Raymond Leboursier Art Direction: Léon Barsacq Music: Francis Lopez Cast: Jean Gabin (Pierre Ruffin/Fernand), Madeleine Robinson (Madeleine Marsan), Robert Dalban (Inspector Dupré), Jean-Jacques Delbo (Antoine), Suzanne Dantès (Miss Mercier). BW-95m. by Chris Fujiwara

Quotes

Trivia