Studio: The Criterion Collection

Jan 14, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Few films paint a portrait of mob mentality more terrifying than Panique. The charming Alice (Viviane Romance) arrives in town after a brief stint in prison; a sentence she served to cover up for her hoodlum boyfriend’s armed robbery. They’ve barely reunited when she discovers he’s guilty of an even more heinous crime: the murder of a wealthy neighborhood woman whose body was freshly discovered in an abandoned lot. Rather than come clean to the authorities, she becomes his accomplice in a truly despicable plot: to pin the murder on Monsieur Hire (Michel Simon), an eccentric outsider who’s become smitten with Alice. Not wanting to interact closely with the police in fear of being discovered, the pair instead spread lies about Hire and plant false ideas about his doings in the heads of the unruly locals and wait for them to carry out mob justice – all while Alice seduces Hire to gain his trust.

It likely goes without say, but Panique is a dark film. Produced in France in 1946, it’s also a pretty damning indictment of the fascist mentality that had spread over so much of Europe over the previous decade. (While it’s not outright stated, there’s an obvious undercurrent of anti-Semitism amongst the bloodthirsty locals: Hire admits his name is a pseudonym he’s adopted, and the true surname he gives police is more Jewish-sounding one.) A truly powerful film from the prolific director Julien Duvivier (Pepe le Moko), it sadly has no less impact today than it likely did upon release.

A new addition to the Criterion Collection, the print and sound quality are of course exceptional in this new restoration. Extras include a conversation between two French critics about Panique’s place within Duvivier’s filmography – they make a pretty convincing argument that Hitchcock had been a fan, and adapted several ideas into his own works – as well an interview with Pierre Simenon, son of write Georges Simenon, who had written the novel from which the film was adapted (but heavily altered.)  

The disc’s other major bonus feature perhaps could have been assembled for any one of Criterion’s many other foreign film releases, but it’s especially well-suited here. Titled The Art of Subtitling, it’s a half-hour history of how international films have been presented to audiences unable to speak their original languages. Narrated by Rialto co-president Bruce Goldstein, it gives due credit to the hard work that goes into translating films – and shows off some hilariously bad subtitling work from old prints of foreign classics. It’s likely not something many cineastes have given much thought, but it’s some truly interesting insight into some of foreign film’s most unsung heroes – it will at least give you something to think about the next time you find yourself reading text at the bottom of a movie.



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January 16th 2019

Nice one collection greaat article