Port of Shadows (Le Quai Des Brumes). Often considered a precursor to later American films noir, the narrative is a fatalistic look at a damaged protagonist, an army deserter named Jean (played by tough-guy extraordinaire Jean Gabin), and his involvement with a young woman, Nelly (Michèle Morgan). Jean is thrust into contact with seedier elements of Le Havre (the port of the title), namely Nelly's creepily attentive godfather and local wannabe-gangster Lucien. The film's aesthetic palette is reflective of this bleakness, wallowing as it does in shadows and the damp, foggy cobblestones paving Le Havre. Condemned by the Vichy government upon the outbreak of World War II for being "immoral, depressing and distressing for young people," Port of Shadows stands a fascinating document of societal uneasiness made tangible through the poetic-realist style of Thirties French cinema.
In 1938, as Franco, Hitler, and Mussolini rose to power on the rising tide of fascism, the director Marcel Carnè registered French society's anxieties in the overwhelmingly dark