Movie Poster of the Week: Claude Autant-Lara’s “A Pig Across Paris”

On May 24th, New York’s Film Forum will continue their ongoing resuscitation of the French Old Wave with a revival of a 1956 film that has been all but forgotten outside France: a film whose French title translates as The Crossing of Paris, which was originally released in the US as Four Bags Full, but which is being re-released now with its more alliterative and far more charming UK subtitle A Pig Across Paris.

Set during the Occupation, this black-sausage comedy may not be quite as cute and animal-friendly as Clément Hurel’s brilliant poster suggests. A hilarious, nail-biting companion of sorts to Wages of Fear, which had been released three years earlier, A Pig Across Paris follows two men (Jean Gabin and comic star Bourvil) who must transport not nitroglycerine across South American mountains, but four black-market suitcases of pork across nighttime Paris, under the nose of the Nazis. (Not to stretch a point, but Wages star Yves Montand was originally sought after for the Gabin role).

A Pig Across Paris was directed by Claude Autant-Lara, the Cinema of Quality bête noir, whose long and illustrious career (he had started making films in the late 1920s and directed such deathless mid-century classics as Devil in the Flesh and The Red and the Black) was sideswiped by the disdain of the Nouvelle Vague (and whose legacy was forever tarnished by National Front membership and Holocaust denial in the late 1980s). It was written by Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost (Forbidden Games) who were also New Wave whipping boys, but Pig got a pass from François Truffaut who declared it a “complete success.” Bertrand Tavernier, long a champion of those that the New Wave effectively blacklisted, called it “one of the most realistic, most caustic, most pitchperfect films about what it meant to live in Paris under the Occupation. In scene after scene...we feel all the caustic rage of Autant-Lara’s anarchic spleen, which is never better demonstrated than when it is tempered, as here, by the humanism and ironic tenderness of Aurenche and Bost.”

The international success of the film in its day is evident in its many and varied posters, including at least four completely different French designs. This one by Jan Mara...

And two pig-less illustrations, the one on the left by Guy Gérard Noël (1912-1994)...

The German poster, by Glathe, in which the title translates as Two Men, a Pig and the Paris Night...

The American poster (Film Forum says that the film “had a tiny release here in the 1950s before disappearing completely”) with its alternate title...

Two very different British quads, one a woodcut for the Academy Cinema by Peter Strausfeld (1910-1980)...

...the other more in the vein of a Carry On film...

A terrific Polish poster (love those x-rayed suitcases) by Konstanty Sopocko (1903-1992)...

The va-va-voom Italian poster...

and one of a number of Italian fotobustas: half-size posters which served as lobby cards...

Footnote: A Pig Across Paris was based on a 1947 story by Marcel Aymé whose 1943 story “Le Passe-muraille” was turned into another Bourvil vehicle which I wrote about last year.

Also, read David Cairns’ Forgotten piece on the rather astonishing looking film Autant-Lara made the year before this, Marguerite of the Night.

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  • Stu Witmer

    Excellent! Excellent! A fine bunch of posters. Stunning.
    Love this series. Thx!

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