This evening I turned on the channel RETRO – you may watch some good classical films on it. I was lucky: Jean Gabin was starring in La Horse. The title seems to be a borrowing from English into French: in French argot “la horse” means “heroin.” In the film Auguste Marouilleur (Jean Gabin), a rich farmer, rules his large family with a heavy hand. His grandson Henri, a barman on a ship, is involved in drug trafficking. When Auguste finds a hideout with Henri’s heroin, he has a tough talk with the grandson and destroys the drugs. The gang immediately reacts by burning Auguste’s barn, killing his livestock and raping his daughter. Auguste isn’t the one to be intimidated. He tells his family to remain calm and not yield to pressure. He refuses to call the police either. “None of our family has ever been imprisoned”, he says to Henri, “and I don’t want you to go to jail.” After the five mobsters who tried to intimidate Auguste are killed, the police intervene but they cannot prove that Auguste or any of his family have been involved, so the case is closed. The final scene of the film shows the family having breakfast at a long wooden table. The camera zooms in on Auguste. Calm and unperturbed, he gives instructions about what is to be done on the farm that day. Suddenly Henri volunteers to give a helping hand, which has never been the case before. Auguste accepts it as something quite natural: “You may, if you wish,” he says to Henri.

Of course, the main attraction of the film is Jean Gabin. He puts much of himself in his part (“Quite a bone to gnaw!”). But I also thought about some conservative values which are propagated in the film and eventually preserve the positiveness of our existence: hard work, morality, justice, stability, reliance, honesty. Thanks, Jean Gabin, for refreshing these “old-fashioned” concepts.


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