Like many a good noir, LE JOUR SE LÈVE begins with a murder. Two men tussle, and François (Jean Gabin) shoots Valentin (Jules Berry) dead.
While François barricades himself in his room, we see in flashback how the two men know each other, and their messy love quadrangle with the innocent Françoise (Jacqueline Laurent) and the sultry Clara (Arletty).
François has been romantically involved with both women, who in turn have both been involved with Valentin. Valentin is older, with a manipulative streak and a penchant for jealousy.
Director Marcel Carné worked within the poetic realism genre, a downbeat form of noir in which working class anti-heroes get a chance at love and the good life, but somehow end up blowing it. The good intentions of on-the-margins characters are hampered by circumstance, by their being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The streets on this side of the tracks are filled with disillusionment and disappointment. The ‘poetic’ is what makes LE JOUR SE LÈVE so beautiful: the peppering of past with present, the stylised use of light and darkness, the sartorial elegance of Françoise and Clara mixed with François’s roughness.
As the title suggests, LE JOUR SE LÈVE is about waiting for daybreak. In darkness, François is safe. When the sun rises, the consequences of his actions will come crashing through his door. Be there to watch it.