The Gates of Paris aka Porte des Lilas, based on novel by Rene Fallet, Screenwriter and director- Rene Clair
The Gates of Paris is a 1957 black and white motion picture, nominated for the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture in a Foreign Language, which reminds one how effective a simple story can be.
Pierre Brasseur as Juju is the unlikely hero, a man who drinks a bit too much, does not have a serious job- or at least this viewer has not noticed it- is infatuated with the beautiful Maria, who seems to respond for some reason.
Well, she actually has more reasons to get close to this man than the one she would prefer in later chapters, for Juju is loyal, steady, honest, open, persistent, kind and likeable.
Juju has a very good friend, L’Artiste, portrayed by an actor who was also a remarkable, popular singer, Georges Brassens, who plays the guitar, sings at his home, and in the bar where Maria works and which is owned by her father.
L’Artiste is so devoted to his comrade that in a couple of instances we see him renouncing his share of the last glass of wine and giving it to his friend, who is “thirstier”.
In his turn, when the artist mentions that his favorite food is pate de foie – which is alas made by torturing the poor animals, and ever since learning about this cruel procedure, the undersigned, who used to love it, has given it up- he decides to get it for his ami.
The following scene is funny, reminding audiences of other features where the protagonist wants to shoplift and hesitates, comes back – in this case, Juju tries to get one can, sees that there are people gathered on the street and decides to take more chances.
Since there is a kerfuffle on the street, with sirens and police agitating, the hero takes advantage and collects about six or eight cans, only he cannot take them once he is outside, for there is a police operation under way and there is a restriction of movement.
Finally, the protagonist arrives at the house of his friend with the special gifts, they open one recipient and the Artist eats some, until the investigators come at the door, provoking panic and making the men throw the precious food through the window.
Nevertheless, the police are not looking for the cans- at least not yet- but for a dangerous fugitive that had been involved in a shootout and is supposed to be hiding in the neighborhood and hence the search through houses and in the corners of the streets.
When they return to the house, a little later, Juju and his friend are faced by a man holding a gun, the infamous Pierre Barbier, who wants to hide with these men, who are forced to accept the “request „from this unwanted guest.
The wanted criminal would be hiding in the cellar and when the time comes to run away, he becomes so sick that the two companions have to take care of him, especially Juju, who protects the fugitive as if he was his relative or partner.
Notwithstanding this humanity and compassion that has benefited the runaway, this one shows a dark, evil side and becomes violent when he thinks that the police is looking for him- yet again- because his protector must have talked and then the law learned about his thereabouts.
In truth, the hero has talked with his friend, Maria, but the detectives have received a complaint about…the missing pate de foie, not the wanted criminal and Juju is actually relived and happy to learn that they are not searching for the hidden, violent escapee.
In the absence of the Artist and his companion, Maria comes at the house and she meets Barbier, who is known as a Don Juan, a seducer and his charm appeals to this young, unexperienced woman that he kisses.
She becomes infatuated with the wrong man, keeps getting out of the bar where she works, making her father suspicious and falling under the wicked spell of this ruthless individual, who even comes at the bar one day, placing all the others in danger.
Barbier makes Juju submit papers for a passport, for he plans his escape to South America, once he has the money and he gets the chance to leave the cellar that he keeps complaining about- as if it was not his fault, his criminal, violent activity that is responsible for his fate.
Juju learns finally that the girl he admires, admires and honors so much is in fact in love with the criminal, but in an extraordinary show of magnanimity, self-sacrifice and pure noblesse, the hero helps the fugitive even after learning about this unhappy development.
Alas, we see that Barbier is pure evil and he only cares about himself, he does not have any feelings for the others- this is actually the portrait of the classic psychopath, a man or woman who has no feelings, but can and often takes advantage of the emotions of the others.
In this motion picture, Pierre Barbier is ready to wreck the lives of those who have tried to help him and is only interested in escaping and ensuring as good a life as possible on a different continent, where he has no wish to share his sacred company with others…
The Gates of Paris is a very good film, with an ambiguous and therefore much more interesting finale.