Movies

Pépé le Moko (1937)

Image missing because my video card decided today would be its last day of service so I’m not able to grab a good enough shot to do this post justice. Instead, just imagine a close up of a man standing face to face with a beautiful woman in an old black and white french movie.

I’ve been agonizing over whether I should write anything about this movie or not. Pépé le Moko is a classic film noir, gangster movie that was influential in creating the anti-hero archetype. It cemented Jean Gabin as one of the greatest male leads of the time in France and his character was the inspiration for Pépé Le Pew. Movies like this almost seem untouchable for a review. I didn’t go to film school or study film history in depth, I’m just someone who watches movies for my own enjoyment . So for this review, that’s just what I’ll do… I’ll talk about my enjoyment of this movie.

I didn’t hate it and I didn’t love it, I’m just completely neutral. Some scenes hit their mark, but I had a huge problem investing in the “romance”. I understand this was made 80 years ago and things were different back then, but I just can’t support a romance where the man says something like, “A pity I don’t know you better so I could smack you one.” Yeah he’s the anti-hero, but this has nothing to do with being an anti-hero character it was just how women were treated back then. I think that line made it too hard for me to care for him as a person and as a result I couldn’t invest in his struggles. Jean Gabin was great in this role though… he really brought the character to life. When he gets mad and starts yelling, that is acting to rival anything you’d see in movies today, I absolutely loved it.

Storywise, I went in a little too cold with this movie so I didn’t even know what it was about and that caused me to be somewhat confused at the beginning. They start right up with Pépé being a wanted criminal and you don’t get to see what he did or what got everyone to where they are now. It took me awhile to figure out who everyone was and what they were trying to do. This might end up being better on a second viewing since I won’t be so confused, but it did hamper my enjoyment this time around. I might’ve liked to see an opening scene of Pépé committing some crimes or something along those lines just to introduce him and give me a real sense of who the police are after.

If you like classic movies then at least give this one a shot because I don’t think you’ll hate it. If you come armed with a little knowledge about the movie, and a longer attention span than I have, I dare say you might actually like it.

Verdict: 7/10 Pepé le Meh

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