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Film / Moontide

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Moontide is a 1942 American Film Noir starring Jean Gabin, Ida Lupino, Thomas Mitchell, and Claude Rains. It was directed by Archie Mayo and written by John O'Hara and an uncredited Nunnally Johnson, based on the novel Moon Tide by Willard Robertson.

Bobo (Gabin) is a vagabond on the high seas currently parked in a Californian port. His friend, Tiny (Mitchell), wants him to join a ship headed for San Francisco and beyond. Bobo, however, has other plans and gets incredibly plastered, missing the opportunity.

His drunkenness leads him to believe that he might have killed a man the night before. Tiny is sure of it and assures him that the secret is safe with him. Finding himself on a tackle shack after this night, he’s hired by Takeo (Victor Sen Yung) and his son to sell bait to passing fishing boats. To find his footing for the moment, Bobo decides to stay.

One night, Bobo and his philosophical friend, Nutsy (Rains), happen upon a suicide attempt; a young woman tries to walk into the ocean. Bobo saves her and she’s, at first, ungrateful. But taking her to his tackle shack, she warms up and thanks Bobo. She reveals that her name is Anna (Lupino) and life has been unduly hard for her since she’s had to work as a prostitute.

Finding a kindred spirit, Bobo falls in love with Anna and decides to finally grow some roots. However, this plan is not to Tiny’s liking since Bobo is his cash cow. He soon looks to thwart Bobo’s plans for love and stability.

This film was Jean Gabin’s American debut, but dissatisfied with American cinema after a few films, he returned to France soon after.

This film shows the following tropes:

  • The Alcoholic: Bobo. It’s a constant problem for him. He drinks so much that he may or may not have killed a man during a drunken rage.
  • Anti-Hero: Played With. Throughout the film, it seems like Bobo is a killer with an alcohol problem who’s also extremely likeable. It’s apparent that once he’s drunk and enraged, he can do almost anything. As it turns out, he’s a decent man who’s incredibly lonely, currently being manipulated by a false friend.
  • Be a Whore to Get Your Man: Nutsy’s advice to Anna on her wedding night. He tells her that she should have no inhibitions with her husband. This convinces Anna to put on the revealing evening gown Bobo gave her. Unfortunately, this outfit is the catalyst to prompt Tiny into attacking her.
  • Blackmail: Tiny is blackmailing Bobo with the apparent knowledge that he’s killed at least two people during drunken blackouts. He uses this as leverage if Bobo ever tries to leave him.
  • Chiaroscuro: The film is ripe with dense fogs, rain, and ominous lighting especially in the final climax.
  • The Drifter: A classic longshoreman, Bobo doesn’t stay anywhere for long.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Bobo’s dog hates Tiny.
  • False Friend: At first, Tiny seems to be a true friend trying to keep Bobo sober and working. But it later becomes apparent he’s only using Bobo as an ATM.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: A case of Love at First Sight, Bobo and Anna are both lonely people who fall in love quickly. It doesn’t take long for them to decide to get married.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Bobo saves Ana from drowning.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: As a wedding gift, Bobo buys a revealing evening gown for Anna from the prostitute he had a drunken night with. She puts it on for Bobo, but when Tiny comes to interrupt the wedding night, he finds her attractive and attempts to assault her.
  • Suicide by Sea: Anna attempts this but is thwarted by Bobo’s heroism.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: After Bobo’s drunken night out, he can’t remember a thing. So much so that Tiny has him convinced that he might have killed a man – he’s done it before.
  • Worst Wedding Ever: Worst wedding night ever. Tiny finds Anna in her provocative dress and attempts to sexually assault her. She fights him off, but he beats her badly.