Sog: dall’omonimo romanzo di Jean Jausion. Scen.: Marcello Pagliero, Robert Scipion. F.: Nicolas Hayer. M.: Nicole Marko. Scgf.: Maurice Colasson. Int.: Jean-Pierre Kérien (Jean Sanviot), Yves Deniaud (Albert), Ginette Leclerc (Madeleine Laurent), Robert Dalban (André Laurent), Grégoire Aslan (Ambilarès), Grégoire Gromoff (Olen), Dora Doll (la ragazza), André Valmy (il commissario), Fabien Loris (Dago), Fréhel (la donna di Buck). Prod.: Sacha Gordine per Les Films Sacha Gordine. 35mm. D.: 85’.
An embittered husband drowns marital failures and professional troubles in wine. He and his frustrated wife act out a do mestic drama. In this commonplace tragedy, fate and chance conspire to bring an unemployed docker’s life to an – almost accidental – end. The story is distinguished by its unusually graphic description of the everyday life of dockers in the French port city of Le Havre. Pagliero shows us workcrews, foremen, a boss whose function is to oversee and also condemn. There is a poor black character with TB, nursed to the end by a courageous old woman played Fréhel, as powerful and moving here as in Pépé le Moko. The main set is Albert’s Bar (Albert is played by Yves Deniaud) where people suck on white wine during the day and cognac or whisky by night, embodying Roger Bussinot’s infamous description of the collapse of working-class morals and morale in the film magazine, “L’Écran français”. In this central location, sailors and their women cross paths with dockers and cops enquiring into the death of one of their comrades pushed into the giant dry dock. Pagliero describes all this without fuss. His eye is observational and free from prejudice. The protagonist, Jean, a foreman (played by Jean-Pierre Kerien) is eponymous man who walks through the city, connecting each of the other characters as he watches over, drowning his sense of despair in liquor till it seems like indifference. And then there is Le Havre, a city that was, in June/July 1949, when the film was shot, still largely unreconstructed after heavy wartime bombing: it is a place of ruin, of laundry set out to dry in vast wastelands with isolated churches, shaky homes propped up with wooden scaffolding and children playing in rubble, as in Rossellini’s Germany, Year Zero.