At a shabby but welcoming hotel near a Paris canal, we meet a variety of colorful characters on society’s margins, including streetwalker Raymonde (Arletty) and her boyfriend/pimp M. Edmond (Jouvet), who is laying low. Into their midst come Renee (Anabella) and Pierre (Aumont), a beautiful but troubled young couple who rent a room upstairs. A tragic event will separate them, but Renee stays on to work. She forms a bond with the mysterious M. Edmond, and soon secrets about his past are revealed.
Sandwiched in-between his two classic films with Jean Gabin (“Port of Shadows” and “Le Jour Se Leve”), Carne directed this overlooked gem, which Criterion has lovingly resurrected. Ingeniously shot on sets designed by Alexandre Trauner, “Nord” vividly evokes the less glamorous aspects of the City of Lights, along with the unique banter and spirit of working-class Parisians. The ensemble cast is superb: Annabella and Aumont make a gorgeous pair of lovers, but this bittersweet, romantic film truly belongs to Jouvet and Arletty, who make the most of their juicier dramatic roles. Fans of classic French cinema should definitely stop at “Hotel Du Nord.”