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The Forgotten: Lady Killer

Jean Grémillon's Gueule d'amour (Lady Killer) of 1937 is almost an archetypal French film of its period. It uses North African colonial settings, like Pepé le Moko. It features the French foreign legion, like La bandera and Le grand jeu. It celebrates male friendship over the perfidy of women, like La belle equipe. It stars Jean Gabin, like everything else.

Partly, the movie succeeds in avoiding the appearance of an identikit picture because it's so well-crafted: Grémillon was a supremely stylish and sensitive filmmaker, whose films typically not only fulfill their genre requirements but hint at broader, more mysterious concerns—in Renoir's phrase, he's adept at "leaving a door open." His collaborators on this one include Günther Rittau, who worked on Metropolis, and Charles Spaak, who worked for almost every major director and whose continuing neglect is one of the more regrettable consequences of the auteur theory. (Partial credits for Spaak: La grand illusion,

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