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DVD Review

DVD cover

L'air de Paris (1954)


Starring: Jean Gabin, Roland Lesaffre and Arletty
Optimum World
RRP: £17.99
Certificate: PG
Available 16 March 2009

Marcel Carné (1906-1996) was a French film director who started his career with his first directing job at the age of twenty-five. With his collaboration with surrealist poet and screenwriter Jacques Prévert they defined a new form of film making, poetic realism. Optimum has released two of his films this month one of which is L’Air de Paris.

L’Air de Paris (1954 - 1 hr, 39 min, 55 sec) is one of Carné’s lesser works, based on the novel La Choute by Jacques Viot. The film won a best actor award for Jean Gabin at the 1954 Venice Film Festival, and the director was also nominated.

The film tells the story of a working class railway worker, André Ménard, who is taken under the wing of an ex-boxer called Victor. Victor wants to relive his glory days by training André. This does not go down well with Victor's wife, Blance (Arletty), who was planning on moving to the south to enjoy their retirement.

There is a subplot involving an affair between André and a woman, Corinne (Marie Daems), who he first sees on a passing train, but even with these two threads this is not the director’s best work. Partly this is down to Jacques Sigurd’s script, which is a pale imitation of the work done with Jacques Prévert.

The cast do what they can with the script and both Roland Lesaffre (André) and Jean Gabin (Victor) struggle valiantly to make their characters sympathetic, but to be honest unless you’re a great fan of boxing movies there is little here to hold your interest. It’s a fifties version of Rocky.

However, if you are a fan, then the presentation of the disc is faultless with a newly remastered print. The black and white film is presented with a 1.33:1 aspect ratio and a French 2.0 mono audio track with an option for English subtitles. The only extra on the disc is the original theatrical trailer (5 min, 04 sec).

So, the film is no masterpiece but one that will be of interest to fans of either the director or boxing.


Charles Packer

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