The Origins of Noir: The Case for the Policier

“Renoir’s second talkie, La Nuit du carrefour (1932)— my all-time favorite French noir, and the sexiest movie he ever made…  his edgy adaptation of Georges Simenon’s Maigret at the Crossroads, filmed in a foggy suburb that vibrates with off-screen sounds and a mysterious Danish heroine (Winna Winifried), cries out for discovery.” – Jonathon Rosenbaum

In 1931 Georges Simenon’s crime novel La Nuit du Carrefour was published by the French pulp magazine Police Magazine:

La Nuit De Carrefour (1932)

In 1932 Jean Renoir in his second film adapted the story for the screen:

La Nuit De Carrefour (1932) La Nuit De Carrefour (1932)

La Nuit De Carrefour (1932) La Nuit De Carrefour (1932)

La Nuit De Carrefour (1932) La Nuit De Carrefour (1932)

5 thoughts on “The Origins of Noir: The Case for the Policier”

  1. Tony, I watched this film three weeks ago, and I can’t quite see where Rosenbaum is coming from. There’s no question the film has style and brooding cinematography, but the narrative is oddly truncated. (reportedly as a result of some lost footage, if that is actually true) I watch attentively, but found it sometimes tedious, though I will absolutely watch it a second time. Of course I do love Renoir, though the noirish LA CHIENNE is a greater film than CARREFOUR. French noirs by Allegret, Dassin and Mellville rate higher for me, but as I say I do need another viewing. As usual, great caps here!

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  2. Sam, I first read the Maigret novel nearly 30 years ago and though not initially connecting the film with the novel I had read, after the first few minutes the element of mystery in the film was lost – but it was still very satisfying.

    I can understand your view on the fractured narrative and I had some initial problems with this also. But as you say the seeds of poetic realism are there. The car chase at night is brilliant, and you want Winna Winifried to be in every scene – she is stunning and her turn is so delicious! While in the book Else has more depth and is certainly less screwy, I think I prefer her screwy and sexy! Time Out refers to Else as a femme-fatale, but that is a stretch. The reviewer also says the rough edges come from Renoir running out of cash before completion. Others prefer the story put about by Godard that some footage is missing.

    But a video of Renoir introducing the film for a French TV broadcast is telling: : http://www.ina.fr/media/entretiens/video/CPF86635736/la-nuit-du-carrefour.fr.html. Renoir describes Else as a ‘bizarre gamin’ and said he deliberately exaggerated the obscurity of the story to create an atmosphere of mystery.

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  3. Hi Tony, La nuit du carrefour is indeed a great film. I read your poem on Winna Winfried. It’s very good. You describe her sensuality very well. I wonder what became of this actress. She seems to have vanished.
    Another very good French film based on Simenon’s Feux rouges is Cédric Kahn’s film of the same name.
    By the way, are you on Facebook?

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    1. Thanks Peter. Yes, Winfried is beguiling and her fate a tantalising mystery. She made a handful of other movies, but so far I have not managed to track any of them down. I will have to check out Feux rouge- thanks. I am on Facebook but not active.

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