• Pépé le Moko succeeds on three separate levels. First, Jean Gabin is undeniably commanding as the titular hero, gangster, and lover (this is largely a romance after all). The atmosphere of the Casbah of Algiers (some on-location exhibition shots, most shot on the studio lot) is material—it is cliché, but the setting is certainly a character in the film. Lastly, Julien Duvivier’s (who also gets credit for the aforementioned atmosphere) roving camera adds a kinetic element to the film that you couldn’t get if the acting, screenplay, and scenery were in the hands of  a lesser director. Duvivier does not like to cut—his camera lingers and eavesdrops—and often pushes through a crowd

the film opens with the investigative team describing both Gabin’s Pepe and the Casbah as both his refuge and his prison. Duvivier uses a montage here as they describe the maze of connected terraces, the labyrinth of the city streets. It is a fabulous opening

  • Gabin is such a presence- broad-faced and broad-shouldered. He has slicked-back hair, a tie, and black undershirt
  • Alleys, chasms—a few shots it looks like Caligari– one great scene of the street people tapping signals about the police arriving on the door
  • Gabin is moody, violent, drunk, swooning in love—spouting lines like “delusions of grandeur” and strolling the crowded streets tasting food from the markets like Brando in The Godfather– a great role

Gabin in the final scenes

  • A tense story and ensemble of characters for a 94-minute running time—a dynamite script—the sheer volume of story here may be the reason the cinematic style is a little quiet for Duvivier in this stretch of his career
  • Had to have an impact/influence on Casablanca, it also apparently served as inspiration for Graham Greene’s The Third Man novel
  • A great show-off cinematic moment when Duvivier alternates close-ups on Gabin and Mireille Balin—with each cut Duvivier draws the camera closer
  • Highly Recommend- top 10 of the year quality film