Pepe Le Moko
Cast & Crew
Pepe is a notorious French criminal, wanted by the police, especially by Inspector Slimane. He is in hiding in the Casbah, the Arab quarter of Algiers, where he is safe so long as he stays there, although he yearns to return to France. Pepe rules his small gang, composed principally of Carlos, Max and Jimmy, and the benevolent figure of Grand Pere, the fence. He is loved by women, in particular by Ines, a gypsy, and is feared and admired by all. Just after a police raid fails yet again to arrest him, he meets and falls in love with beautiful Parisian demi-mondaine Gaby, as she visits the Casbah with her rich friends, in search of exotic thrills. She soon intensifies his nostalgia for Paris, and Pepe later becomes undone, when he is tempted out of hiding by Gaby.
Henri La Barthe
Pepe le Moko (1941) - Pepe le Moko
Director Julien Duvivier shot some of Pepe le Moko in Algiers, but he felt that shooting in the actual Casbah would be a distraction, so he built a large stylized set at Pathe's Joinville studios. Duvivier, an expert craftsman, created a moody, atmospheric film, and Gabin's tough-guy allure and romantic melancholy made for a potent combination. The film made Gabin, already an important actor in France, a top international star. The script, the music, and a terrific supporting cast added to the film's appeal, and Pepe le Moko was a huge popular and critical success in France and around the world, including Japan, where it was the top-grossing film of 1937. Jean Cocteau declared it "a masterpiece." In his review, British novelist Graham Greene, who also worked as a film critic, called it "One of the most exciting and moving films I can remember seeing...I cannot remember seeing one which has succeeded so admirably in raising the thriller to a poetic level."
Pepe le Moko was not released in the United States until 1941, a victim of its international acclaim. MGM immediately bought the remake rights to the film, but had second thoughts when confronted with the characters' straightforward amorality, and sold the rights to independent producer Walter Wanger. As was the custom then, the original was kept off American screens until after the American version, Algiers (1938), was released and had ended its run. Wanger reportedly wanted Gabin to star in the remake, but Gabin demurred, saying that, like French wine, he didn't travel well. (Gabin's instincts were correct. The two films he made in America during World War II were flops.) Charles Boyer took on the role of Pepe, with Hedy Lamarr playing Gaby. Director John Cromwell allegedly had a moviola on the set of Algiers so he could copy the setups from Pepe le Moko. Cromwell also used location footage from the French original in Algiers. Pepe le Moko was remade as a musical called Casbah in 1948, starring Tony Martin as Pepe. Over the years, Pepe le Moko has been the inspiration for countless films, from Casablanca (1942), to the Warner Bros. cartoon character, Pepe le Pew, and an Italian spoof, Toto le Moko (1951), starring beloved comedian Toto.
Algiers was a box office hit, and its success led Wanger to finally release Pepe le Moko in the U.S. Audiences loved it. Critics rhapsodized. Bosley Crowther of the New York Times called it "the most distinguished 'new' French film in months and months...Jean Gabin's tough, unsentimental performance of the title role is much more credible and revealing than Charles Boyer's sad-eyed mooning in Algiers...Without criticizing Algiers, which was an exciting film in its own right, it can be fairly said that Pepe le Moko tells the same story more trenchantly and with decidedly more true flavor." The Time magazine critic was equally impressed. "By rights, the film should just be a dated straggler on the U.S. screen. Yet director Julien Duvivier's camera has caught such an accurate X-ray of a tortured mind, it deserves a gold star on any list...Having a copy from Hollywood for comparison, serious cinema students will find in Pepe le Moko an excellent example of a prime Hollywood weakness -- obeisance to its technical proficiency. With no scenic splendors to distract its attention, the French film studies its character with thought and patience."
Pepe le Moko was a high point of the poetic realism movement, and a defining moment in the careers of Jean Gabin and Julien Duvivier, a prolific and versatile director who began his film career in 1916, and worked until his death following a car accident in 1967 at the age of 71. But it was that very versatility that led to his dismissal by New Wave film critics of the 1960s as a polished hack, an empty technician who did not leave a distinctive imprint on his work like a true auteur. Yet Duvivier made some of the most memorable films in French cinema, from his own personal favorite, the silent version of Poil de Carotte (1925), to Pepe le Moko and Un Carnet de Bal (1937), to his last great film, Pot-Bouille (1957). As fellow director Claude Chabrol noted, "He was an auteur who didn't declare himself one. An auteur is someone who, whatever the subject, always manages to appropriate it; that's exactly the case of our friend Duvivier." In a tribute to Duvivier following his death, Jean Renoir wrote, "If I were an architect and I had to build a monument to the cinema, I would place a statue of Duvivier above the entrance...This great technician, this rigorist, was a poet."
Producers: Raymond Hakim, Robert Hakim (both uncredited)
Director: Julien Duvivier
Screenplay: Henri Jeanson (dialogue); Détective Ashelbé, Julien Duvivier (scenario); J. Constant (adaptation); Ashelbé (novel)
Cinematography: Marc Fossard, Kruger
Music: Vincent Scotto, Mohamed Yguerbouchen
Film Editing: Marguerite Beaugé
Cast: Jean Gabin (Pépé le Moko), Gabriel Gabrio (Carlos), Saturnin Fabre (Le Grand Père), Charpin (Régis), Lucas Gridoux (Inspecteur Slimane), Gilbert-Gil (Pierrot), Dalio (L'Arbi), Granval (Maxime), Gaston Modot (Jimmy), Bergeron (Inspecteur Meunier).
by Margarita Landazuri
Pepe le Moko (1941) - Pepe le Moko
Restorations - Pepe le Moko
PEPE LE MOKO
After a successful theatrical run of Umberto D. at the Film Forum in New York City, the enterprising programmers have booked another beautifully restored film classic - Pepe Le Moko, directed by Julien Duvivier. A precursor to the film noir melodramas Hollywood would begin churning out in just a few more years, Pepe Le Moko (1937) is a landmark of French poetic realism. The story follows Pepe (Jean Gabin), a wanted gangster, as he holes up with his gang in a hideaway in the Parisian neighborhood of Algiers. Meanwhile, the local police inspector watches and waits for Pepe to make a false move, which inevitably occurs once he meets femme fatale Mireille Balin.
The program notes for Pepe Le Moko on the Film Forum web site state that the film was "completely suppressed here following Hollywood's nearly shot-by-shot 1938 remake Algiers, with Charles Boyer and Hedy Lamarr" and that "Pepe" has been seen for the past 60 years only in unwatchable 16mm prints and pirated videos. This new 35mm print restores both the sound and image to their original clarity, as well as footage never before seen in the U.S., with brand new subtitles by Lenny Borger capturing for the first time the argot of the casbah underworld. Pepe's influence was enormous, iconicizing Gabin as the doomed outsider (his followup: Renoir's Grand Illusion) and spawning two remakes (the aforementioned Algiers and the musicalized Casbah) -- not to mention an Italian parody (Toto le Moko) and the Warner Bros. cartoon character Pepe Le Pew!
Here are just a few comments on Pepe Le Moko from some of the most respected film critics of all time.
Graham Greene: "One of the most exciting and moving films I can remember seeing. It is rarely, very rarely, that a picture is produced so unhampered as this by plotmaking, where theme dominates incident in so masterly a manner. In this film we do not forget the real subject in a mass of detail: the freedom-loving human spirit trapped and pulling at the chain. A simple subject, but fiction does not demand complex themes, and the story of a man at liberty to move only in one shabby, alien quarter where his heart is in another place widens out to touch the experience of exile common to everyone." - The Spectator (London), 23 April 1937.
Pauline Kael: "Superb entertainment. A classic romantic melodrama of the 30s, and one of the most compelling of all the fatalistic French screen romances, yet seen by few Americans because it was remade in Hollywood two years later as Algiers, starring Charles Boyer and "introducing" Hedy Lamarr. Algiers was so closely copied from Pepe Le Moko that look-alikes were cast in many of the roles, and some sequences were followed shot by shot. But Algiers is glamorous pop that doesn't compare to the original, directed by Julien Duvivier and starring Jean Gabin as the gangster who finds love but can't find his freedom. No one who saw Pepe is likely to forget the scene in which the homesick-for-Paris Gabin looks at a M¿o ticket1 and recites the names of the stations. Ironically, Duvivier had hoped to make an American-style gangster film and had drawn some of his characters from Scarface." -- Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies (1984, Henry Holt & Co.).
George Sadoul: "When Pepe le Moko, directed by Julien Duvivier and scripted by the popular novelist and scandal-columnist Henri Jeanson, was released, it was credited with this new theme, greatly to the surprise of its makers. The film was much more than a French version of a Hollywood Scarface or Underworld. It was a very clever study of gangsterdom set in the colorful and infamous Casbah of Algiers. - from French Film (1953, The Falcon Press, London).
For more information about Pepe Le Moko, go to the Film Forum web site. To find out if the film will be playing at a cinema in your city, check out the web site at RIALTO PICTURES.
UMBERTO D. - 50TH ANNIVERSITY RESTORATION OF VITTORIO DE SICA'S MASTERPIECE
In a limited two-week run at The Film Forum in New York City, Umberto D. (1952), one of the key films of the Italian neo-realism movement, is being presented in a newly restored 50th anniversity print with a new translation and subtitles. Directed by Vittorio De Sica, the film depicts a few days in the life of Umberto, a retired bureaucrat facing eviction from his apartment of 20 years. When government institutions and former friends fail him in his plight, he is forced to roam the streets; his only emotional connection to the real world is his beloved dog and his friendship with an uneducated maid who is in desperate straits herself. Although the film arrived at the end of the neo-realism cycle, its narrative about an elderly, poverty-stricken man and his struggle to maintain his dignity in an uncaring society is just as powerful and relevant today as it was when it first premiered in Italy.
In the title role, De Sica cast a non-professional actor - Carlo Battisti (a University of Florence professor in real life) - who delivers a heart-breaking performance without resorting to easy sentimentality or grand theatrics. And the film was truly a labor of love for the director (he often said it was his favorite film) and screenwriter Cesare Zavattini, who collaborated on most of De Sica's important films including Shoeshine (1946) and The Bicycle Thief (1948).
Unfortunately, Umberto D. was attacked in its own country by the Italian Minister of Culture who accused the film of airing the country's "dirty laundry" in public. Nevertheless, the film went on to international acclaim including an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay and the New York Film Critics Award for Best Foreign Film. And today, it's universally recognized as a masterpiece of world cinema. This dazzling new restoration of Umberto D. is due to the efforts of Giuseppe Rotunno, the famous cinematographer of Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers & Fellini's Satyricon, and film stock expert Vincenzo Verzini, known as the "Little Giotto" of Italian movies. Verzini began his film career working for Roberto Rossellini on Open City (1945) and established his reputation as an expert in developing and printing the sophisticated lighting contrasts in films such as Luchino Visconti's White Nights (1957). In addition to Umberto D, he has restored such classics as Pasolini's Mamma Roma (1962), Rossellini's The Flowers of St. Francis (1950), Fellini's The White Sheik (1951) and I Vitelloni (1953), and Pietro Germi's Un Maledetto Imbroglio (1959) for Mediaset.
In Il Mio Viaggio in Italia (My Voyage to Italy), Martin Scorsese's passionate new documentary on Italian cinema which airs on Turner Classic Movies in June, the director says, "As powerful as The Bicycle Thief was, for me, De Sica and Zavattini's greatest achievement together was Umberto D....a great movie about a hero of everyday life. That was De Sica's precious gift to his father. And to us."
According to Peter Brunette in a New York Times article, the current print of Umberto D. showing at the Film Forum is a remarkable improvement over past prints: "Damaged or missing frames in the original negative of Umberto D. were replaced, the splicing between reels upgraded and the lighting improved. The soundtrack was also restored by transferring it to digital audio tape and filtering it with modern equipment."
For more information about Umberto D., go to the Film Forum web site. For a listing of theatres where Umberto D. will be playing over the next few months, visit Rialto Pictures.Turner Classic Movies will also be airing De Sica's masterpiece on Friday, June 21 at 9:45 pm ET in conjunction with our premiere of the new Scorsese documentary on Italian cinema (Part One airs on Friday, June 7 at 8:00 pm ET, Part Two airs on Saturday, June 8 at 8:00 pm ET). Check back with us in May for more information on the entire Italian cinema series.
By Jeff Stafford
Restorations - Pepe le Moko
Pepe Le Moko
Jean Gabin's suave performance as Pepe (note the character's similarity to Warner Brothers' amorous cartoon skunk) is one of the touchstones of 1930s French cinema. Pepe is a thief and all-around ne'er-do-well who's generally viewed as the criminal leader of the Casbah. His cohorts in crime help shield him from the police, who realize they're unlikely to find him in the teeming city. So Pepe is forced to operate within the constrictions of the underworld. When he falls for a beautiful Parisian named Gaby (Mireille Balin), he longs to return with her to Paris, but can't break the invisible chains that bind him.
Though Pepe Le Moko was a smash when it was originally released in France, its U.S. opening was postponed until the Hollywood remake, Algiers, came out, thus ensuring a bigger box office for a lesser picture. (Oddly, Charles Boyer turned down the chance to star in the French version, but signed on for the American remake.) Duvivier's picture became something of a whipping boy during the war, and was banned by both the French and occupying German governments. The French felt it was too depressing for wartime audiences. Germany, of course, banned all sorts of pictures for all sorts of "reasons."
Criterion, as always, has made every effort to present the film as it was originally seen, with a restored print in 1.33 aspect ratio. The print quality, unfortunately, varies rather wildly. Some of the sequences have an almost dreamlike clarity, a soft black & white that seems to leap off the screen, while others are fairly loaded with scratches and the telltale signs of improper storage. Nevertheless, many of the shots are gorgeous. Even with the flaws, this is as good as the picture will ever look.
Criterion has included its usual potpourri of special features:
*A 10-minute 1962 French television interview with Duvivier
*Excerpts from the 1978 TV documentary, Remembering Jean Gabin
*Text supplements including passages from Ginette Vincendeau's book Pepe Le Moko, which examines the historical background of the film's setting, and the French crime novel in general
*A video comparison of the two 1938 versions of the film
*An essay by film critic Michael Atkinson
*The original theatrical trailer
This beautifully realized picture had a major impact on popular culture, both in Europe and America. If you haven't experienced it - or even if you're a longtime fan - you're in for a real treat.
For more information about the DVD special edition of Pepe Le Moko, visit The Criterion Collection web site. To order Pepe Le Moko, visit TCM Shopping.
By Paul Tatara
Pepe Le Moko
Released in United States March 1977
Released in United States Spring March 3, 1941
Re-released in United States April 19, 2002
Re-released in United States March 1, 2002
Began shooting October 1936.
Completed shooting December 1936.
The 2002 re-release is a newly restored 35mm print with 9-minutes of 'never-seen-before' footage.
Released in United States March 1977 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Double Vision-Two different classics made from the same story) March 9-27, 1977.)
Re-released in United States March 1, 2002 (Film Forum; New York City)
Released in United States Spring March 3, 1941
Re-released in United States April 19, 2002 (NuArt; Los Angeles)