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Martin Roumagnac

A film by Georges Lacombe
Starring Marlene Dietrich and Jean Gabin

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This tragic postwar romance is a tale of class anxiety and classic Romantic fatalism, run through with a typically French frankness about sex and gender. Gabin is the titular character, an unpretentious and proudly working class building contractor, who falls in love with Dietrich’s ravishing shopgirl Blanche, quite unaware that she comes trailing a notorious sexual history and attracts the determined ardor of every man she meets. Among her current lovers (the American title was The Room Upstairs) is a local politician who plans on marrying Blanche once his terminally ill wife dies, but Gabin’s sensible lug doesn’t care, though it’s clear that the ever-opportunistic Blanche will choose wealth over love.

Until she doesn’t. Both Lacombe’s film and Dietrich’s performance have a sphinx-like attitude toward this femme fatale, and that still-gestating film noir stereotype is subtly deepened. Blanche is not judged or made to seem amoral. The men that buzz around her are not villainized, either – they’re just following their toxic hearts, in a culture where women like Blanche have so few options. Meanwhile, as the melodrama heats up, Gabin and Dietrich radiate pure matinee charisma, in the only movie these two icons ever made together.

“It’s a classic theme: the myth of the honest, simple-hearted man, driven to decline and crime by the bad faith and fickleness of a woman. Pierre Véry’s adaptation strives to lend authenticity and a human dimension to the film. The characters are brought to life in precise detail, whether we are in the café where Roumagnac’s friends gather, or at the construction sites he manages. —Ecran français, December 24, 1946

“The subject might be unremarkable, yet it provides the impetus for all of the violence, rapture, and disillusionment that follows. The Gabin-Dietrich duo are as surprising as the town: he, quite comfortable in his work overalls and perfectly suited to his character; she, softer than in her American films, less artificial, but still very “Blue Angel. Her legendary legs naturally play a role of their own.” —Le franc tireur, December 24, 1946

“Martin Roumagnac reconnects with the purest tradition of French realism.” —Combat, January 22, 1947

95 minutes / B&W
French / English subtitles
Release: 2022
Copyright: 1946

Subject areas:
France, Fiction Feature Films

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