A fine and interesting film with flaws which harm it. In part it's an action film- the first forty five minutes or so depict that rescue of a freighter by a salvage tug in a storm, with a lot of pretty good model work- you could imagine Bogart or Spencer Tracy playing Captain Laurent in a remake. On the other hand it's also a study of a particular society- the world of the deep-sea tug men and their wives and families- and there's a kind of mystical aspect too, in the actual relationship of the men and their work. They are portrayed as following a kind of vocation, with altruism as important as profit and their relationships with one another are as important as those with their families. There is a scene with the manager of the firm that owns Laurent's tug that shows the difference between them. The relationships between Laurent and his wife Yvonne and Catherine/Aimee is shown as reflecting his relationship with the sea. The trouble is the different aspects of the film don't fit together properly. Yvonne's illness may be connected with her husband's work; Catherine may be a mysterious being- the sea come to life perhaps or a kind of mermaid or someone who leads Laurent to betray his way life- or she may be a strong woman with a contemptible husband who finally breaks away- we see enough of her with her husband to want to know more, but not enough to understand why she married or remained with him. Equally, we need to know either more or less about Laurent's marriage- why don't they have children for example? In other films Prevert and his collaborators can combine these aspects effectively, but for some reason they don't manage it here. At the end, though, there are extraordinary and extraordinarily moving scenes. Catherine has told her Laurent her secret name- Aimee- when the bosun- a man we know is a thinker and a melancholic- comes to collect Laurent to see his dying wife. "Unhappy men can find each other." he explains to Catherine, who knows she has lost Laurent and prepares to leave Brest. Yvonne dies- as she wanted- with her husband by her. She asks him to say "I love you." but we never know if he said it or not- we see the doctor and the others in the next room and hear a terrible shriek of "Yvonne!" from Laurent and we know she has gone. As if her death had made it possible, a crewman comes with news of a salvage- and their chief rival, a Dutch tug, too, that needs help- and Laurent ignores them. The crewmen go down to the ship and prepare it for sea.The music is a mixture- a burial service, prayers for the dead, plain-chant, the tug's siren moaning and the wind and rain. AS the boat prepares to leave Laurent is seen hurrying down the harbour steps and along the gangplank to give orders to the engine room. Of all the moments of magical realism that Prevert put into his film scripts and made with directors this is surely the most extraordinary and the most moving- it transcends every fault that preceded it and made the film worthwhile.
Action / Drama / Romance
Action / Drama / Romance
Andre Laurent, the captain of a tugboat, married Yvonne ten years ago. She has a heart disease but does not want to tell him. She dreams he quits the job for they can live quietly.
November 27, 2020