Pepe Le Moko

Jean Gabin plays the title hero, a dapper Parisian gangster hiding out in the casbah until passion tempts him toward doom. Along with the colonial atmospherics and some crude sadism, Gabin’s probably the reason for the enduring success of this 1937 exercise in poetic realism, adapted from a 1931 novel and directed by Julien Duvivier. At least three American remakes derive from it (including the Orson Welles radio version)not to mention aspects of Casablanca and even a Warner Brothers cartoon character, Pepe Le Pew. This has a lot to do with the romantic fatalism that would be called film noir after it crossed the Atlantic. An early voice-over segment about the casbah itself, before Gabin makes an appearance, is so pungent you can almost taste the place, even though the filming was clearly done in a studio. With Mireille Balin. In French with subtitles. 93 min. (JR)

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