Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Heartbreak Hotel

Hotel du Nord (1938) - Carné Screen Shot 2022-10-12 at 8.20.01 AM Screen Shot 2022-10-12 at 8.22.17 AM Screen Shot 2022-10-12 at 8.23.15 AM Screen Shot 2022-10-12 at 8.23.49 AM Screen Shot 2022-10-12 at 8.24.18 AM Screen Shot 2022-10-12 at 8.24.53 AM Screen Shot 2022-10-12 at 8.25.10 AM Young lovers, Pierre (Jean-Pierre Aumont) and Renée (Annabella), had it with life of poverty and made a suicide pact and checks in Hotel du Nord, a charming working class hotel alongside a lively canal. After shooting Renée in the heart, Pierre chickens out and flee the hotel with the help of one of the lodgers there, M. Edmond (Louis Jouvet), a cynical pimp who lives with his gal Raymonde (Arletty). Pierre soon turns himself in, confessing his crime to the police. Renée survives her injuries and confronts Pierre, for she is still in love with him. After Renée comes back to the hotel and gets a job there, Edmond is smittened by her presence. Perhaps it's her deathwish that draws him in. He calls off the trip with Raymonde and dumps her, to which she bitterly reminds him that there are gangsters (his former associates) after him. Edmond and Renée decides to go off together overseas to start anew, but at the last minute, Renée chickens out and comes back to the hotel, because she still loves Pierre. Edmond, knowing full well that coming back to the hotel is his demise, comes back during the Bastille Day celebration where the sound of firecrackers will overlap with gunshots.

Hotel du Nord is a typical fatalistic love story that was prevalent in the 1930s French cinema and synonymous with Poetic Realism. The set and production design inside the studio is impressive, so is the atmosphere it creates for poor working class neighborhood filled with cab drivers, cops, house painters, street urchins, pimps and whores. There's even a character who sells his blood for living. There's a casualness in Hotel du Nord - amorality is given - a husband is ok with his wife being asked to go out by a womanizing cab driver, homosexuality is out in the open, prostitution is just a profession.... People hook up and break up on a whim and pledges their love as if it is as easy as blowing their noses. Are these doomed lovers an omen for the upcoming world war? I ponder this because I know that the French New Wavers hated and rebelled against these canonical films from this period. But there was Vietnam and France's involvement in Algeria and Indochina before that before the emergence of the New Wave. I might have to dig deeper into this.

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