After three weeks and a long, hot voyage across the Pacific, an ocean liner finally arrives at its destination, Ecuador. That evening, the event is marked by a masked ball and a magic show. Dainah, a liberated young woman who does not seem to have much affection for her husband, goes up on deck alone for a breath of fresh air. Here, she encounters the ship’s engineer, Michaux. Mistaking Dainah’s intentions, the engineer attempts to kiss her, but the young woman runs away. The next day, Dainah again finds Michaux on the deck. In the morning, it is announced that Dainah has disappeared. Having organised a search party, the ship’s captain soon suspects that Michaux may have thrown the missing woman overboard. The engineer categorically denies this. There are other possible explanations. The young woman may have committed suicide, or she may have been murdered by her husband…
Jean Grémillon belongs firmly in what we in England would call the Second Eleven, i.e. someone who is perhaps not good enough to play for his country but is worthy to be a reserve. In Daïnah la métisse, he appears to be tackling Othello (métisse translates roughly as of mixed blood or, as we used to be able to say, half-caste). It may only be coincidence but that same year (1931) Noel Coward enjoyed considerable success with a song entitled Half-Caste Woman.
Grémillon is meticulous in contrasting the dark skin of the husband (Othello) with the passing-for-white skin of the wife (Desdemona). The fly in the ointment takes the shape of Charles Vanel, employed in the engine room but anxious to get to know the wife a little better. It all ends in tears of course but what a film it might have been… —Filmsdefrance.com
Jean Grémillon (3 October 1901, Bayeux, Calvados – 25 November 1959) was a French film director. After directing a number of documentaries during the 1920s, many now lost, he had his first substantial success with the dramatic feature Maldone in 1928. Over the next quarter-century, he directed twenty more feature films, of which he is best known for five made between 1937 and 1944: L’Étrange M. Victor, Gueule d’amour (1937), Remorques (1941), Lumière d’été (1943), and Le Ciel est à vous (1944).
Grémillon rejected what he referred to as “mechanical naturalism” in favor of “the discovery of that subtlety which the human eye does not perceive directly but which must be shown by establishing the harmonies, the unknown relations, between objects and beings; it is a vivifying, inexhaustible source of images that strike our imaginations and enchant our hearts.” —Wikipedia