19 July 2006 | Cristi_Ciopron
Gabin as a trucker!
During the '50s were made many movies about the proletariat's life (e.g.,"On the Waterfront","The Wages of Fear ",lots of Italian movies,"Look back ...","This Sporting Life "in '63,etc.);this movies were of many sorts.Some of them simply got lost in flawed and unskilled,unprepossessing,unproductive sociology:a boredom.Some were very good;some were average,etc..Some were quite realistic;some were not.The majority of them had leftist sympathies,or,at least,followed the patterns of an ersatz naturalism:the populism.All this scents the suburbs,the promiscuity,the rudeness,the rubbish,the tat,the gross-out.It is below the 19th. century's naturalism.Misfits,proletarians,etc.;this comes from the romantic populist novelists,in the 19th. century,and from the popular drama in literature and cinema,in '20s and '30s:naturalism at its lowest and most fake level.The fact is that many directors wanted to take a look at the proletarian and workmen world;those were the times,and that was the fashion.Some were fakers,others were lucid,honest directors.
Some of this movies were not primarily interested in depicting the proletarians' life as such,but only used it as a frame.Some of them were fine (or,at least,very interesting) pieces of psychology (e. g.,"This Sporting Life " and "On the Waterfront ").
(A few words about the reaction against the multiple forms and avatars of naturalism/populism in the different cultures.In his time,RL Stevenson protested against the naturalism;E. Lovinescu,Camil Petrescu,G. Calinescu,Alexandru George,Radu Petrescu protested against many kinds of naturalism,rusticity,populism,provincialism,rudimentary "realism",etc.,and promoted an urban literature that fits the needs of men with a highly differentiated inner life.)
"Des Gens ..." is a a film not only about proletarians,but also for the proletarians.I have some reservations about this kind of populism.
"Des Gens ..." is the story of a middle-aged man,Jean Viard,a trucker who meets a young waitress and leaves his family so he may be with her.He is very attracted by Clotilde Brachet.Gabin performs a rudimentary,instinctual lug.The story is quite sordid and it begins with some vulgarities;psychologically,it is void.Jean Viard's character is not developed.We do not understand why does he fall for Clotilde all of a sudden.The reason for his actions lacks.(We can assume he is looking for a way out of his family situation,that he needs an evasion.)It is not the morals that brings him back to his family life.The story is rather meaningless,I do not see the interest of some trucker's amorous and familial tribulations.This must be a "slice of life" in the populist taste.("Des Gens ..." is a sample of some kind of pseudo-naturalism:a conventional and ready-made one.)The screenwriter does not know what to do with his characters.The script resorts to some clichés.All this is rather cheap.Gabin's role is not.
After all,"Des Gens..." is an anecdote,deprived of any ambitions,a quite conventional but interesting and well made study.
Some things in this movie are execrably bad and fulsome.The proletarian populist gloomy show is not my kind of show.It is as non-moral as Sadoveanu's naturalistic youth prose."Des Gens ..." is ugly,but I guess it's supposed to look like that.It reeks of cheap alcohol,garages and inns.It indulges in baseness.It strives to capture "the life itself".It tries to be without illusions.It is not.No truth,no life meanings are uttered here,in this brutal way.(For the opposite,check "This Sporting Life " and "The Wages of Fear".)
Some critics say there are three phases in Gabin's career."Des Gens..." belongs to the second phase.In '60,'62,'69,Gabin made other movies with Verneuil.
My mother,who has exquisite tastes,and also enjoys a lot this kind of French '50s populism,liked hugely this movie,for her "Des Gens..." was a knockout.Of course,ANY chance to see Gabin as a lead is unmissable and pleasing("Nothing fake in him",said Mrs. Dietrich!)."Des Gens..." is not listed among the 17 GREAT Gabin movies (from "Pépé Le Moko" and "La Grande Illusion" to "Le Clan Des Siciliens" and "Le Chat".)
"Des Gens..." is Malakian's 9th. movie.