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Film / The Trip Across Paris

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"Salauds de pauvres!"

La Traversée de Paris (The trip across Paris) is a 1956 French film directed by Claude Autant-Lara and written by Jean Aurenche, Pierre Bost and Michel Audiard. It stars Bourvil, Jean Gabin and Louis de Funès, and is based on the short story La traversée de Paris by Marcel Aymé.

The film is set in Paris in 1942, during the German Occupation. Two men, Marcel Martin (Bourvil), a former taxi driver, and Grandgil (Gabin), a painter, defy the curfew to deliver an important load of pork meat across the city by foot in the dead of the night, on behalf of Black Market grocer Monsieur Jambier (De Funès).

The film competed at the 17th Venice International Film Festival, where Bourvil won the Volpi Cup for Best Actor. The cynical portrayal of the Occupation was very unconventional for the time and made the film controversial upon initial release a mere decade after the war.


The trip across Paris provides examples of:

  • Bittersweet Ending: Marcel survives the war, but gets small jobs and still carries the others' suitcases.
  • Blackmail: Grandgil asks Jambier for a huge salary increase for the smuggling, as the load of pork is quite heavy. Jambier refuses, which causes Grandgil to shout his name and address loudly. Out of fear of attracting the police or German soldiers, Jambier gives him the money.
  • Black Market: The war and Occupation caused a shortage of goods, meat in particular. It's a heyday for clandestine grocers such as Jambier, and smuggling goods is extremely dangerous due to both the French police and patrols of German soldiers.
  • Cacophony Cover Up: Marcel has to play accordion to cover the screams of the pig being slaughtered by Jambier, since Jambier is a Black Market butcher who wants to avoid attracting attention.
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  • Chubby Mama, Skinny Papa: The couple of bartenders. The husband is skinny, and his wife is chubby.
  • Coffin Contraband: A coffin is used to smuggle a black market pig past the checkpoints in German-occupied Paris.
  • Cultured Badass: Grandgil surely can throw a punch and deliver badass The Reason You Suck Speeches, but he is also a painter and is knowledgeable about German poetry.
  • Cunning Linguist: Grandgil is fluent in German.
  • Deus ex Machina: In the end, Marcel and other prisoners are taken off by the Germans because a German colonel was murdered by La Résistance. He thinks that he will be summarily executed in retaliation for the murder. The epilogue shows that he survives and does not tell us how.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Besides the epilogue, the events of the film happen during one single night.
  • Fascists' Bed Time: Due to the curfew, imposed from midnight to 6am by Germans after invading France, Marcel and Grandgil often have to hide from patrols.
  • Get Out!: After the famous Ham-to-Ham Combat scene, Jambier is practically kicking out Martin and Grandgil out of his cave.
    Jambier: [after paying Grandgil) NOW GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!
    Martin: And what about me? We have an arrangement at 450 Francs...
    Jambier: I have already given you 5000 Francs, and now you are on your own! [now alone and mumbling] I think I will not forget that pig...
  • Gratuitous German: As Marcel and Grandgil have to cross over a place with two French policemen, Grandgil starts speaking in German to Marcel (reciting Heinrich Heine's 1827 poem "Mir träumt’: ich bin der liebe Gott") so the French policemen will think they're Germans (not knowing what Grandgil says) and leave them alone. It works like a charm.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Bonus point for involving literal ham. In Jambier's basement storehouse, Grandgil finds out the load of pork he and Marcel have to smuggle throughout Paris is quite heavy and thus demands a substantial increase of his salary to Jambier, who refuses categorically. Grandgil then starts shouting Jambier's name and his address loudly and repeatedly, which makes everyone freak out as it could attract French police or German patrols. Jambier keeps refusing as loud as he can before giving up. Jean Gabin probably never went hammier than this, and Louis de Funès didn't have much trouble keeping up.
  • Hidden Depths: When Grandgil meant "painter", Marcel thought he was a house painter. Turns out he's an artist.
  • Hypocrite: Jambier is outraged when Martin demands 600 Francs for the ham delivery and accuses him of taking advantage of him. And this coming from someone who owns a lot of food and is pretty active on the black market.
    Jambier: Ooohh, I see what you are doing... YOU ARE TRYING TO PROFIT FROM THE SITUATION !!!
  • It Amused Me: Grandgil is a rich painter to begin with. He involved himself in this black market smuggling operation just for kicks.
  • Large Ham: Jean Gabin's presence in a movie is already impressive in itself, but here he really hammed it up.
  • Nervous Wreck: Jambier, though he has reasons to be nervous given how dangerous for his business Grandgil turns out to be. It helps that he was played by Louis de Funès, a master of this trope for French cinema.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Grandgil passes for a naive man towards Marcel to get involved in Jambier's smuggling operation. It turns out he is not, and he's even smarter than pretty much everyone else in the movie.
  • Only One Name: Grandgil is only known by this name.
  • Properly Paranoid: Since he is selling food in complete illegality, Jambier has every right to be very suspicious of Grandgil when he comes to his secret cave:
    Monsieur Jambier: Is he [Grandgil] trustworthy?
    Marcel Martin: Absolutely. And I didn't tell him anything. He doesn't know where we are.
    [a bit later]
    Jambier: Listen Martin, I might lose 1000 Francs but you are going to get out of there with your little friend who you are "absolutely sure".
    Martin: Aw come on, he doesn't know what he is talking about... He is a dumbass!
    Jambier: Not sure... That guy scares me... First off he has gold teeth...
    Martin: Then what?
    Jambier: What if he was a cop?
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Grandgil throws an epic one to a couple of unpleasant bartenders after he finds out they both can potentially denounce he and Marcel to the police and they employ a Jewish girl as a house slave of sorts. His rant extends to the bar's patrons, whom he famously calls "Salauds de pauvres!" ("bastard poor persons", literally).
    Grandgil: Look at that cutie... with his drunkard face full of greyish and flabby flesh... flabby, flabby everywhere ! Won't you change your bloody face someday ? And what about the shrew, all made of gelatin and lard, with her three chins, her boobs sagging on her paunch... Fifty years old each, a hundred for both, a whole century of dumbassery ! What the hell are you even doing in this world, for Chrissakes ? Aren't you ashamed of existing ?
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: Marcel, an unemployed taxi driver who resorts to dangerous odd jobs to survive, constantly quarrel with Grandgil, a rich and famous painter. In particular, Marcel is outraged when he realizes that Grandgil is rich and that he carried the meat with him just bacause it amused him.
  • State Sec: Marcel asks Grandgil to help him because his partner just got arrested by The Gestapo.