Though filmed once before as a 1927 silent film by Carné’s mentor Jacques Feyder, Émile Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin received a wholly original re-working when director Marcel Carné (Port of Shadows) adapted it himself in 1953. Carné blended the theatricality of his revered Children of Paradise with the neo-realism of his trenchant pre- and post-war dramas into a film that bears more of a resemblance to James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice and Luchino Visconti’s Ossessione than to the Zola of Nana and Germinal. Carné’s “clinical injections of suspense” (New York Times) earned him the Silver Lion director’s prize at the 1953 Venice Film Festival.
Star-crossed lovers Thérèse (Simone Signoret – Les Diaboliques) and Laurent (Raf Vallone – Bitter Rice) think they’ve gotten away with murder after Thérèse’s weakling husband “falls” from a speeding train. But when forced to contend with a blackmailer’s demands and the mute accusations of Thérèse’s mother-in-law (French stage and screen diva Sylvie, in a scene stealing performance), it’s only a matter of time before the law, their passion, or blind chance trip them up.
Future Oscar® winner Simone Signoret emerged from premature self-imposed retirement as full-time wife to Yves Montand in order to play Thérèse. —Kino International
Between 1936 and 1946, Marcel Carné was among the chief proponents of poetic realism, a studio-bound film style that combined theatrical themes with elaborate dialogues which depicted ordinary people attempting to contend with the unalterable nature of destiny. The shadowy fatalism of poetic realism presaged the more popular American film noir. Though the style was created by Jacques Feyder, with whom Carné apprenticed, it was Carné and poet/screenwriter Jacques Prévert who brought it to its full fruition with Enfants du Paradise (Children of Paradise) (1945), a work still considered one of France’s greatest films. Born and raised in Montmarte, Carné was originally slated to work for an insurance agency by his father, a cabinetmaker. Carné, however, was more interested in movies and secretly attended evening classes on cinematography with the Paris city council-sponsored Association Philomantique. Without telling his father, Carné left the agency in 1928 to work as an assistant cameraman… read more
Carné's modernised adaptation of Zola's novel is a wonderful thriller in the mould of Ossessione and Double Indemnity. A year after lighting up the screen in Becker's Casque d'Or, Signoret is the unhappily married woman whose affair with an Italian truck driver leads to murder and blackmail. Though the master of poetic realism would continue to make films for several more years, this was arguably his last great film.
Roland LeSaffre as the sailor/blackmailer is criminally unsung. He's not even listed in MUBI's cast, and several reviews online unforgivably mistake Marcel Andre as the actor in the role. Andre (who is best known perhaps as Belle's father in Cocteau's La belle et la bete) was in his 70s. In this film, he played Michaud, one of the elder Mme Raquin's friends.
This great film is usually known as 'Therese Raquin',which is a more suitable title,especially considering she's played by the wonderful Simone Signoret. It is a thriller,bleak and pessimistic,an atmosphere suited to this story of a love that cannot be. I loved it.