Marie wants to escape from her job and also from her lover, Paul, an unemployed drunk. She dreams of going off with Jean, a dockworker. The two men quarrel and fight over Marie on two occasions, but Paul retains a hold over her. Marie has a baby who falls ill and as time goes on Jean and a crippled neighbor try to help the child. Paul nearly causes the death of the child whilst in a drunken stupor and in a final struggle that occurs, the crippled woman seizes Paul’s gun and shoots him dead. —IMDb
“Abel comments that Epstein’s film was ‘conceived in the wake of Abel Gance’s La roue (1923)’ with its rapid cutting and use of symbolism. Epstein’s story of a tragic love triangle involving marginal workers and down-and-outs in the rundown milieu of the old Marseille waterfront, together with Fievre, established the subgenre of ‘the poetic realist film’ (see En rade, Pepe le moko, Quai des brumes). Epstein intended to take a popular form (melodrama) as the pretext for experimentation. Close-ups and rapid cutting are deployed in an original manner that according to Abel ‘synthesised much of then current film practice’. The film falls into two halves divided by the carnival sequence in which Epstein’s editing is at its most experimental assuming the form of ‘a vertiginous dance’. " —Richard Abel, French Cinema: The First Wave
Jean Epstein (March 25, 1897, Warsaw – April 2, 1953, Paris) was a film director and early film theoretician.
He started directing his own films in 1922 with Pasteur, followed by L’Auberge rouge and Coeur fidèle (both 1923). Famous film director Luis Buñuel worked as an assistant director to Epstein on Mauprat (1926) and La Chute de la maison Usher (1928). Epstein’s criticism appeared in the early modernist journal L’Esprit Nouveau.
During the making of Coeur fidèle Epstein now chose to film a simple story of love and violence “to win the confidence of those, still so numerous, who believe that only the lowest melodrama can interest the public”, and also in the hope of creating “a melodrama so stripped of all the conventions ordinarily attached to the genre, so sober, so simple, that it might approach the nobility and excellence of tragedy”. He wrote the scenario in a single night.
Epstein had been much impressed… read more
Its beauty and candour was mesmerizing from start to finish. With stunning visuals and inventive editing techniques, this film exceeded my expectiations in every way by creating socially viable characters and by externalizing their 'coeur' through a masterful use of lightning, mise-en-scène and editing techniques, culminating, with the fast cut montage at the fair. Memorable. A truly underrated artistic gem.
An essay by Nicole Brenez on maverick filmmaker-critic Jean Epstein.