French filmmaker Julien Duvivier is undoubtedly best known for the 1937 classic Pépé le Moko, starring Jean Gabin. But many film lovers today have seen little else by this poetic realist pioneer, a victim, Michael Atkinson writes in an insightful new essay for Moving Image Source, of auteurism. Ignored for generations by critics who saw his thematically varied output as the work of “an able journeyman without signature or invention,” Duvivier, Atkinson argues compellingly, in fact “rarely let a dull or unevocative shot pass through his camera,” and his films “fairly leap and swoon with visual cogency, surprising compositional drama, and an epitomically French embrace of narrative life, equal parts funeral and fete.” Atkinson wrote his article on the occasion of the Museum of Modern Art’s twenty-two-film retrospective of Duvivier’s work—which includes many of the films Atkinson focuses on, such as Poil de carrote (1925), David Golder (1930), and La belle équipe (1936)—playing now through May 25.

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