Film Notes – Pepe Le Moko (1937)

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I must admit that I only have a basic understanding of what constitutes Poetic Realism. In fact, it would appear that Poetic Realism is harder to pin down to a specific set of criteria than some other movements such as German Expressionism or Soviet Montage to begin with. The very term Poetic Realism appears to be an oxymoron to me. Poetry is the stuff of figurative language, it is the metaphors and the images used to express those things which are hard to articulate in a matter of fact way. In film, this would involve the use of formal devices to create surreal or subjective images and perspectives, for example. In opposition to that is realism which suggests that there is very little intervention between what you see on the screen and what would exist in the real world. It begs the question as to how something can be both figurative and objective at the same time. I wish I had paid more attention to the formal qualities of Julien Duvivier’s Pepe Le Moko because apparently it is one of the quintessential films representative of Poetic Realism. Maybe then I would have a better idea of how these seemingly opposite aspects came together.

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