Le quai des brumes (Port of Shadows – France 1938): Poetic Realism


The fog of angst seeps from the faces of two doomed lovers in the dank gloom of Le Havre. Jean is on the run and Nelly is trapped in a psychic prison as real as the physical constraints on her existence. Happiness is something that may exist but neither knows it.

They meet by chance one night in a broken-down bar on the waterfront amongst the detritus of an ephemeral humanity. Panama’s is a haven for the down-and-out named for the hat of the publican, an old shaman with a rusted soul as deep as the canal he visited in his youth. Father confessor of a convent for lost souls. He keeps his counsel, asks no questions, and strums his guitar.

And everywhere the fog and the harbor with rusting hulks at anchor ever-waiting transport for deliverance. The two lovers stroll as tentative friends with a hope as forlorn as it is sublime, when a bright clarity intrudes, a hood with a malice as sharp as his clothes and his shave, and as evil as his cowardice.

A night of bliss follows. Jean and Nelly find love at a sea-side carnival and that elusive union we all seek – in a rented room. They keep missing pernicious Fate a drunken vagabond. The glory of a new dawn is soon shattered. They each leave alone. Fate occupies the sheets of last night’s passion, and they are lost.

“Kiss me. We don’t have much time.”

7 thoughts on “Le quai des brumes (Port of Shadows – France 1938): Poetic Realism”

  1. Bonjour! Tony,
    Le quai des brumes (Port of Shadows)
    What can I say, but what a very…descriptive review of a film about two people who are in love and their relationship is doomed from the start or from the beginning.

    Another film that is “elusive” to me too…Therefore, I must seek this film out to watch in earnest.(Along with In the Valley of Elah

    By the way, writer R.L.Bourges, pointed this film out to me to (over there on YouTube) Therefore, if I do not purchase it…I can always watch it on over there on YouTube in it entirety.

    Nice poster!…This is the second of five French posters that I have seen for the 1938 film Le quai des brumes.
    Merci de partager!
    DeeDee 😉


  2. Yet another poetic treatment that captures the essence of a work perfectly. Certainly, LE QUAI DES BRUMES is one of the gloomiest and most depressing films in all of cinema, and like the other Carne-Prevert collaboration, LE JOUR SE LEVE, it’s an existential work (though LE QUAI is the more philosophical of the two, methinks) This is a moody, atmospheric film (the score by Maurice Jaubert is memorable too) that is magnificently visualized here in verbal terms. Bravo.


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