Gates of Paris (1957): Rene Clair’s Foreign Language Oscar Nominee, Starring Pierre Brasseur (Strangers in Paradise)

1957: Best Foreign Language Feature Oscar: Year 2

In the second year of the foreign-language Oscar category, the five nominees were: Fellini’s “The Nights of Cabiria” from Italy, which won, “The Devil Came at Night” from the Federal Republic of Germany, “Gates of Paris” from France, “Mother India” from India, and “Nine Lives” from Norway.

Rene Clair’s character-driven drama, Gates of Paris (“Port de Lilias”) is based on René Fallet’s novel “La Grande Ceinture.”

Porte des Lilas
Gates of Paris
Porte des Lilas Poster.jpg

The great actor Pierre Brasseur plays Juju, an aimless layabout alcoholic, who hides a fugitive murderer named Barbier (Henri Vidal) from the police.

Grade: B+ (**** out of *****)

When his identity is discovered by the heroine Maria (Dany Carel), Barbier betrays the girl, which pushes the otherwise easy-going Juju into an extreme action of murder.

The famous singer George Brassens makes a rare film appearance as Artiste, the unemployed impoverished man who dwells in his own derelict house with his likewise unemployed best friend Juju.

When they come across the wanted criminal Barbier hiding in their home, Juju initially shows admiration for the threefold murderer. Yet when he witnesses him bragging about having compromised a girl for financial benefit, his feelings changed and he shoots Barbier dead.

The film is known as both Gates of Lilacs and The Gates of Paris, but was released under the latter title in the U.S.

Pierre Brasseur as Juju
Georges Brassens as Artiste
Henri Vidal as Pierre Barbier
Dany Carrel as Maria
Raymond Bussières as Alphonse
Gabrielle Fontan as Madame Sabatier
Amédée as Paulo – a regular at the café
Annette Poivre as Nénette
Alain Bouvette [fr] as Paulo’s friend
Alice Tissot as the concierge


Directed by René Clair
Produced by René Clair, André Daven
Written by Novel: René Fallet
Screenplay: René Clair, Jean Aurel
Music by Georges Brassens
Cinematography Robert Lefebvre
Edited by Louisette Hautecoeur
Distributed by Cinédis (France)
Lopert Pictures Corporation (U.S.)

Release date: September 20, 1957 (Italy); September 25, 1957 (France)

Running time: 95 minutes

About Rene Clair

Rene Clair (1898-1981) had achieved fame in the early 1930s with a number of classics, such as “A Nous La Liberte” and “July 14.”

“A Nous La Liberte” was nominated for the Best Interior Decoration Oscar, by Lazare Meerson, but it didn’t win.

During WWII, he was among a handful of French directors, who emigrated to Hollywood, where he made “The Flame of New Orleans” the cult item, “I Married a Witch” (1942), and the commercial hit, “And Then There Were None,” among others.