Pépé le Moko

Gaby, Pépé and Slimane

One of the great French “poetic realist” movies of the 1930s, Pépé le Moko is also a chance to see Jean Gabin at Peak Gabin, as the much-admired, much-feared man all men want to be and all women want to be with – as the saying goes. He’s a good bad guy, a kind of Robin Hood, but whereas Robin was happy in Sherwood Forest, Pépé is beginning to bridle at his confinement in French colonial Algiers, in the Casbah, the ramshackle part of town that’s a no-go area for the colonial authorities, who badly want Pépé but can’t touch him while he’s on his turf. Homesick Pépé’s yearning for the sights, sounds … Read more


Monsieur Hire and Alice

How’s this for grim! The atmospheric and technically superb Panique, released in 1946, one year after the war ended, gave the French people an image of themselves at their worst. What the domestic market wanted at the time was sugar-coated triumphalism, stories about the nobility of the Resistance to the German occupation and the endurance of the indomitable French spirit etc. Unsurprisingly the film bombed. An adaptation of one of Georges Simenon’s “romans durs” (the tougher novels that didn’t feature Simenon’s decent detective Maigret), it opens with the death of a woman and closes with the death of a man. In between director/co-writer Julien Duvivier gives us one of the most relentlessly depressing … Read more