Julien DuvivierFrance94 minutes1937B&WFrench
Unscreened in Toronto in almost two decades, Pépé le Moko is a landmark of French cinema. Jean Gabin plays the title anti-hero, a nattily dressed criminal hiding out in the Casbah of Algiers, who maintains his power through fear and force of personality. Yearning for his native Paris, Pépé falls in love with a French tart on tour, and their romance leads to betrayal and suicide. Despite the glistening, sun-struck "exoticism" of the North African setting (the film was largely shot in a French studio), Pépé le Moko exhibits all the shadowy fatalism of its period; indeed, the French government banned the film as demoralizing at the outset of World War II. "Perhaps there have been pictures as exciting on the 'thriller' level as this before, but I cannot remember one which has succeeded so admirably in raising the thriller to a poetic level" (Graham Greene); "Superb entertainment ... One of the most compelling of all the fatalistic French screen romances" (Pauline Kael).