Port of Shadows ★★★★

I didn't quite know what "poetic realism" was supposed to mean when I went into this film, and I'm still not totally sure - it definitely has a poetic feel to it, but the realism is more like "bad stuff happens to people." I guess in comparison with happy-ending fantasy that was common in 1930s cinema, it's realist. Michele Morgan is still lit with eyelights that make her sparkling and luminous, despite her abusive situation, and people still fall in love at first sight even though Jean scoffs at the concept.

I actually don't know what I'm going on about. I really enjoyed the film, and I can actually see that enjoyment turning into love on a rewatch, when I can really fall into this place and these characters without working as hard to keep track of who wants to kill who at any given moment (seriously, those three super ineffectual hoods? I'm still working on their motivation).

It actually kind of made me think of what Modern Times would've been like if it hadn't been a comedy - partially that's because Michele Morgan REALLY looks like Paulette Goddard, especially the way her hair is cut and the way she's lit. But also, look at the shot where Jean and Nelly leave Panama's place together. Subtract the dog and that's basically the last shot of Modern Times. And as if to prove me right, a shot in Port of Shadows actually includes the poster for Modern Times.

It's also easy to see it as a proto-noir film - Nelly's not a femme fatale in persona, but she is in role. Without her, Jean would've safely left town with no strings attached. The cinematography is softer than noir would be, with lots of shadows, sure, but soft contrasts due to the ever-present fog. On the other hand, every noir character Bogart ever played owes something to Gabin in this film.

HOW IT ENTERED MY FLICKCHART:

Port of Shadows > Point Blank
Port of Shadows < The Little Foxes
Port of Shadows > Anastasia
Port of Shadows > Frenzy
Port of Shadows > Life is Beautiful
Port of Shadows > The Kid with a Bike
Port of Shadows < Dodge City
Port of Shadows > Spider-Man
Port of Shadows > Children of Men
Port of Shadows > Super 8
Port of Shadows > Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Port of Shadows > District B-13

FINAL RANKING: #868 out of 3363