Film and TV

Local Color

Every movie lover has heard of Pepe le Moko, the suave French crook hiding in plain sight in the slums of Algiers, with his romantic watch-cry of "Come wiz me to ze Casbah." But in America, Pepe has always been connected to the romantic myth of Charles Boyer, the star of the 1938 version of the tale, Algiers. Few in the United States have ever seen the 1937 original with Jean Gabin. Consequently, this revival, in a spanking new print, is a cause for celebration. Directed by Julien Duvivier, Pepe le Moko is far different in tone from the John Cromwell-directed Algiers and its remake Casbah (a wonderful musical version directed by John Berry with Tony Martin as Pepe and a great score by Harold Arlen). While there's a love triangle at its center pitting Pepe between a faithful gypsy girl (Line Noro) and a chic Parisian slumming in Algiers (Mireille Balin), there's plenty of "local color" and little attention to plot rigor. Most important of all, it's a vehicle for Jean Gabin, whose quicksilver charm hasn't aged in more than 60 years. He's cooler than Bogart, Belmondo and Gerard Depardieu put together. Not to be missed. And pay close attention to the finale. It's a genuine surprise.
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David Ehrenstein