Poetic Realism

Poetic Realism

Films and Movie Memorabilia

Poetic realism was a film movement in France of the 1930s. More a tendency than a movement, Poetic Realism is not strongly unified like Soviet Montage or French Impressionism but were individuals who created this lyrical style. Its leading filmmakers were Pierre Chenal, Jean Vigo, Julien Duvivier, Marcel Carné, the most significant director Jean Renoir. Renoir made a wide variety of films some influenced by the leftist Popular Front group and even a lyrical short feature film. Frequent stars of these films were Jean Gabin, Michel Simon, Simone Signoret, and Michèle Morgan. Poetic realism films are “recreated realism”, stylised and studio bound, rather than approaching the “socio-realism of the documentary”. They usually have a fatalistic view of life with their characters living on the margins of society, either as unemployed members of the working class or as criminals. After a life of disappointment, the characters get a last chance at love, but are ultimately disappointed again and the films frequently end with disillusionment or death. The overall tone often resembles nostalgia and bitterness. They are “poetic” because of a heightened aestheticism that sometimes draws attention to the representational aspects of the films. Though these films were weak in the production sector, French cinema did create a high proportion of influential films largely due to the talented people in the industry in the 1930s who were working on them. The most popular set designer was Lazare Meerson. Composers who worked on these films included Georges Auric, Arthur Honegger, Joseph Kosma, and Maurice Jaubert. Screenwriters who contributed to many of the films included Charles Spaak and Jacques Prévert. The movement had a significant impact on later film movements, in particular Italian neorealism and the French New Wave.



Poetic Realism
Featured Poetic Realism Films

Articles and Essays on Poetic Realism

L’Atalante (1934)

The great director Jean Vigo had only completed four films that can be watched in a span of under three hours. And yet the work that he created has been some of the most influential of all French films and even started the path towards The French New Wave. L’Atalante, which can be looked at […]

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Children of Paradise (1945)

Never has a film been through so many disruptions or dealt with as many issues as Marcel Carne’s French epic masterpiece Children of Paradise; and it actually getting completed was a miracle of its own. It was described in the American trailer as the French answer to ‘Gone With the Wind’ and was the most expensive […]

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Grand Illusion (1937)

Jean Renoir’s Grand Illusion is not only the greatest of all prison escape movies but it is regarded by critics and film historians as one of the greatest films in the world. Apart from its other extraordinary achievements Grand Illusion influenced three later movie sequences that became classics of their own. The digging of the escape […]

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Rules of the Game, The (1939)

By February 1939 war was brewing near and a feeling of doom was hanging over Europe. The great French director Jean Renoir anticipated for war and troubled by it, he created a remarkable comedy of manners, an absurd comic farce that ends in tragedy. A total box-office failure in 1939, Jean Renoirs The Rules of the Game is now […]

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Poetic Realism
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