Sound, image, Gabin
Duvivier and the 1930s
in Julien Duvivier
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This chapter will begin with an examination of Duvivier’s first ‘talkie’, David Golder (1930) and its central figure of the Jew. It will also discuss whether, consciously or not, Duvivier’s film – along with his two other 1930s so-called ‘Jewish’ films Golgotha (1935) and Le Golem (1935), are anti-Semitic.

The chapter will place Duvivier’s work within the generic and aesthetic framework of poetic ealism, for three of his films in particular – La Bandera (1935), La Belle Equipe (1936) and Pépé le Moko (1937) – combine elements of populism and melodrama with an expressionistic mise en scène and a pessimistic narrative structure. The chapter will also look at the importance of the actor Jean Gabin, who starred in all three aforementioned films, and demonstrate how Duvivier uses Gabin’s star aura, as well as the defining traits that can be traced across many of his characters – alienation, helplessness, assertive masculinity, romanticism – to amplify the feelings of hopelessness and stalemate that afflicted large portions of French society after the collapse of the Popular Front in 1937.

Duvivier is part of this landscape, and the chapter will explore the interactions between his favoured collaborators like Henri Jeanson, Jacques Krauss, Charles Spaak, and Maurice Jaubert on other technically accomplished and visually impeccable films.

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