thatcow

Middling war movie

Passage to Marseille was made a short couple years after Casablanca, and features much of the same cast. Back in the days of the studio system, when actors were usually on contract to studios, it wasn't unusual to be working with the same people, but I do think there was an attempt to cash in on the magic of that previous movie, which is perhaps most notable in the common use of the French national anthem on the soundtrack.

Again, the backdrop is of the war, and particularly the situation in France. This time, the interest is more in fighting the war itself than examining its fallout.

The narrative structure is rather ambitious for the time, with most of the movie told from a flashback, a flashback within that flashback, and even stretches of deeper flashbacking. The story is about a group of French convicts who escape from Devil's Island to fight against Germany, and end up rescued from the sea by a French navy ship. While on board, news of the French surrender comes through, which causes some disagreement on the ship.

This experimental structure does actually work for telling this particular story, though it does tend to ramble a bit and isn't completely tight. There is actually quite a bit of ambiguous morality introduced at several times through the film, which would have pumped up my interest if they had just spent some more time exploring it, more along the lines of, say Three Kings, does.

Passage to Marseille probably worked better in its historical context, where movies of patriotism were a form of society feeling better about the sacrifices necessary for the war effort.

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