The Grand Illusion (1937) Jean Renoir

The Grand Illusion 1937 poster

At the height of World War I, the German ace aviator, Captain von Rauffenstein, shoots down the plane of the aristocratic French pilot, Captain de Boeldieu, and his co-pilot, the working-class civilian mechanic, Lieutenant Maréchal, during an air-reconnaissance mission. As the captured officers find themselves in the Hallbach POW camp for officers, they befriend the wealthy former Jewish banker, Lieutenant Rosenthal, and along with a handful of determined compatriots, they organise an escape. However, fate has other plans in store for them, and shortly before the implementation of the plan, they are transferred by train to the impregnable Wintersborn fortress-prison in Alsace, France, overseen by Rauffenstein himself. More and more, respect and appreciation bond von Rauffenstein and de Boeldieu. But, will this delicate relationship, and the grand illusion, stand in the way of breaking out?

L’Atalante (1934) Jean Vigo

LAtalante 1934 poster

When Juliette marries Jean, she comes to live with him as he captains a river barge. Besides the two of them, are a cabin boy and the strange old second mate, Pere Jules. Soon bored by life on the river, she slips off to see the nightlife when they land at Paris. Angered by this, Jean sets off, leaving Juliette behind. Overcome by grief and longing for his wife, Jean falls into a depression and Pere Jules goes searching for Juliette.

La belle équipe (1936) Julien Duvivier

La belle equipe 1936 poster

Those five are unemployed penniless workers. Together they win 100,000 Francs with the national lottery. Instead of sharing the money, they buy a ruin and build an open-air cafe. But difficulties come to split their friendly group apart: former wife, police tracking one of them (Spanish republican refugee), jealousy…

The Lower Depths (1936) Jean Renoir

The Lower Depths 1936 poster

The winner of the Louis Delluc Prize as the most outstanding French photo-play of 1936, as selected by the Young Independent Critics of France (an organization and not a description.) The film treats the imprisoning hold of poverty; the disheartening odds of people rising from such social despair, and the ease in which those in the upper spheres of Society may descend.

Pépé le Moko (1937) Julien Duvivier

Pepe le Moko 1937 poster

Holed up in the labyrinthine trap of narrow cobblestoned streets and dark dead-end alleys in the bustling Casbah quarter of Algiers, the charismatic leader and elegant Parisian gangster, Pépé le Moko, is starting to reach the end of his tether. Under those pressing circumstances, and always homesick for his beloved Paris after two long years in the impenetrable district, Pépé and his loyal gang find themselves in a constant cat-and-mouse game with the local police and the sly, manipulative detective, Inspector Slimane, trying hard to be one step ahead of them. But, as if that weren’t enough, a chance encounter with the dazzling coquette, Gaby, will expose the Achilles’ heel of the love-smitten lord of the Casbah, who is now eager to dice with death only to be with her. Is she Pépé le Moko’s last chance to leave his squalid criminal haven?

La Bête Humaine (1938) Jean Renoir

La Bete Humaine 1938 poster

Jacques Lantier is a train engineer who is prone to violent seizures, a condition he attributes to his forefathers’ habit of excessive drinking. Roubaud is a train conductor on the same railroad that Lantier works on, married to the much younger Séverine. When Roubaud catches wind of his wife’s affair with her godfather, the wealthy M. Grandmorin, he kills him during a train journey in a fit of jealousy. He makes sure that Séverine is also present, making her an accomplice to murder. Lantier, despite having witnessed them quite clearly in the train corridor, hides the fact during the investigation as he is attracted to Séverine. They both begin an affair, all the while Roubaud becomes increasingly withdrawn and starts to gamble. Séverine urges Lantier to kill her husband so that they would be free but she is unaware of Lantier’s unfortunate condition.

Hotel du Nord (1938) Marcel Carné

Hotel du Nord 1938 poster

On the mournful bank of the meandering Canal St. Martin, at the cheap Parisian Hôtel du Nord, the dejected young lovers, Pierre and Renée, take a room, bent on fulfilling an unholy pact. Then, in the dead of night, a nearly fatal gunshot chills the bone to the marrow, splitting the couple, apparently, forever. However–amid a sad but beautiful panorama of streetwise prostitutes; hard-as-nails procurers in impeccable suits; forlorn survivors; murderous former companions, and the police–unfulfilled desires, secret passions, and a dangerous romantic triangle have the final say. Now, in love’s name, high expectations for a fresh start and a deadly semi-automatic pistol separate hope from despair. Can life be as easy as a fairy tale?

The Rules of the Game (1939) Jean Renoir

The Rules of the Game 1939 poster

On the brink of WWII, the record-breaking aviator, André Jurieux, safely lands at a small airport crammed with reporters, only to come face-to-face with his worst fear: the object of his desire, Christine, a blonde noblewoman and wife of the affluent Marquis de la Cheyniest, Robert, is not there to greet him. Intent on winning her back, André accepts his friend Octave’s invitation for a lavish hunting weekend at the aristocrat’s palatial country estate at La Coliniere, among hand-picked guests and the mansion’s servants. However, intrigue, rivalries, and human weaknesses threaten to expose royalty and paupers alike. Who will breach first the unwritten rules of the game?

Le Jour Se Leve (1939) Marcel Carné

Le Jour Se Leve 1939 poster

Francois, a sympathetic factory worker, kills Valentin with a gun. He locked himself in his furnished room and starts remembering how he was led to murder. He met once Francoise, a young fleurist, and they fell in love. But Francoise was gotten round by Valentin, a dog trainer, a machiavellian guy…

Remorques (1941) Jean Grémillon

Remorques 1941 poster

Andre Laurent, the captain of a tugboat, married Yvonne ten years ago. She has a heart disease but does not want to tell him. She dreams he quits the job for they can live quietly. One night, during a sea rescue, he meets Catherine. She wants to leave her husband, the captain of the rescued ship. She is a beautiful and unusual woman…