Quai des orfevres

Format: Cinema

Release date: 25 June 2007

Distributor: Optimum Releasing

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot

Cast: Suzy Delair, Bernard Blier, Jouis Jouvet, Simone Renant

France 1947

106 minutes

Quai des Orfí­Â¨vres opens strikingly with singer Jenny Lamour posing for saucy photos to give to her husband Maurice, who exchanged the conservatoire for the nightclub to be her accompanist. It closes with a snowy Christmas scene of reconciliation; after the sweaty anxiety of the intervening events, the sentimental resolution for once seems well earned. The film is a seemingly effortless evocation of the low life in 1940s Paris – a shadowed, intimate, but open world through which ugly and beautiful, young and old, victim, suspect, and pursuer move freely. No door ever seems to be locked. Unlike the city today it is a world of belonging – everyone seems connected with everyone else. Showgirl, concierge, policeman, cloakroom attendant, all the denizens of the nightclub and the alley are equal in the eye of Clouzot’s camera. Jenny and Maurice embroil themselves in a crime through emotions with which it is all too easy to sympathize – jealousy, and a desperate desire to escape from poverty. Apart stands the distant-eyed photographer Dora, a ray of glamour amid the seediness. ‘Une drôle de fille’, she calls herself; the nature of her emotional entanglement is recognized and saluted in the end by her counterpart, the film’s other clear-sighted loner. This is Antoine, the maimed Foreign Legionnaire turned police inspector; like the others he is a troubled, flawed soul redeemed through love, in his case for the son he has brought back from Africa. Frank but not lurid, grim but humane, Quai des Orfí­Â¨vres is a perfectly realized thriller of the mundane, never cynical enough to be noir, and all the better for it.

Peter Momtchiloff