Retrospective 2019

La Bataille du rail

The Battle of the Rails
René Clément
F 1946
85min
V'19

René Clément, author of such beloved classics of postwar French cinema as the Academy Award-winning LE MURA DI MALAPAGA (1949), JEUX INTERDITS (1952) or PLEIN SOLEIL (1960), who was later somewhat unjustly attacked and pushed into oblivion by the Nouvelle Vague critics, made his first big international splash with the orthodox partisan picture LA BATAILLE DU RAIL. At a time when it was especially important for divided France to reestablish its identity based on the antifascist struggle, LA BATAILLE DU RAIL appeared like manna from heaven. Almost documentary-like in its presentation, this heroic reconstruction of the French railroad workers’ contribution to the resistance struggle used a mixture of professional actors and real-life railroad resistance fighters, imbuing the patriotic narrative with a dash of neorealism. Additionally, Clément grants none of his characters enough space to express their individuality, yet does so not by shoehorning them into a somewhat formulaic plot, but by systematically presenting them as a single emblem, a collective hero that embodies – and consequently heals – the entire nation of France. Clément won (his only) Best Director Award for LA BATAILLE DU RAIL at the 1946 Cannes Film Festival, where the film also won the Prix international du jury.

Credits
  • Howard Vernon
  • Jean Clarieux
  • Jean Daurand
  • Lucien Desagneaux
  • François Joux
  • Pierre Latour
  • Tony Laurent
  • René Clément
  • Colette Audry
  • Henri Alekan
  • Jacques Desagneaux
  • Yves Baudrier
Coopérative Générale du Cinéma Français
35 mm
SW
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