Except for Un si jolie… I find it too damn difficult to rank these. They all have given me surprises and moments of enjoyment over the years. A couple of them – Le jeux sonts fait and Il Grido are, perhaps, not traditionally looked upon as noir, but they certainly have been, like so many others, infected with the noir virus.
1)Un si jolie petite plage (1949) – like Vertigo for domestic noir, petite plage stands apart from all the other French noir. Philipe, with the tough/tender mix of a Montgomery Clift and Garfield , finds the only logical final outlet for his despair.
La Chienne (1931) – imo, even better than SCARLET STREET, but not by much.
Leviathan (1962) – before Delon became France’s pretty boy actor there was Louis Jourdan, who portrays a mad, lustful murderer to perfection. Ripe for re-discovery.
Le jour se leve (1939) – with three Gabin films on this list I would have to say “sorry Bogey”, but in terms of silver screen iconic status, Gabin is the GOAT
Pepe le Moko (1937) reeking with exoticism. The film that made Gabin an international star never tires after multiple viewings.
Il Grido (1957) – a film infected by the noir virus. “Big” Steve Cochran roaming the flat featureless landscape of northern Italy looking for something, whatever it is, and in his alienation ends up taking the same way out as Philipe in petit plage.
Stray Dog (1949) – a cat and mouse game between cop and criminal in a sweltering Tokyo summer. One of Kurosawa’s best, imo.
Camino Del Infierno (1951) – starring that beauty, the stunning Leticia Palma, whose career was drastically cut short by the internal politics of the Mexican actor’s union.
Le Otra (1946) – Del Rio still looking ravishing, with an ending that has camera work by Alex Phillips that Alton would have been proud of.
Les jeux sont faits – one of a kind based on an original scenario by Sartre with all the existential trappings of fate. This and Le portes de la nuit prove that poetry in noir extended beyond the 1930s.
Non coupable (1947) – Michel Simon, the monstre sacre of French cinema, in perhaps his most iconic role. You can’t take your eyes off the guy.
The Scarlet Dove (1961) – Finnish noir where the “it’s all been a dream” theme makes perfect sense if one takes note of various moments in the narrative.
Le portes de la nuit (1946) – trashed by French critics, but looks a good deal better in time and an ocean away. Hell, if the French can like Jerry Lewis, then we can appreciate this under valued work by Carne.
Le septieme jure (1962) – middle class provincial murder done in a moment of mad lust by a bland bourgeois. Bernard Blier is the pitch perfect respectable worm.
Voici Le temps des assassins (1956) – a classic of noir misogyny. Two evil women after his dough and even Gabin’s mother is more than a bit of a bitch.
Ossessione (1943) – the earthiest of the various Cain cinematic adaptations.
Les quai des brumes (1938) – three icons – Morgan, Gabin and Simon in a moody slice of poetic realism.
Meewen sterven in de haven (1955) – almost a noir art film with striking images filmed in the seldom seen Antwerp.
Chair de poule (1963) – Catherine Rouvel is simply the sexiest femme fatale in all of noir. Ava eat your heart out.
No abras nunca esa puerta (1952) – from Argentina. Two short films coupled together based on Woolrich stories.
Victimas del pecado (1951) – the quintessential over the top Mexican noir. Call it cartoon noir where you watch it all the way through with a big smile on your face.
Maneges (1950) – Signoret as a heartless bitch just warming up for Therese Raquin.
Riso Amaro (1950) – Silvana Mangano and a crime thriller combined. Perfect combo.
En la palma de tu mano (1951) – 5 years after the stellar camera work of Alex Phillips in La Otra, he comes back lensing a story that someone on IMDB refers to as a combo of Double Indemnity and Nightmare Alley. I’ll go with that.
Rififi (1955) – along with The Asphalt Jungle, the best of a multitude of heist films.
Special mention to The Wild, Wild Rose (1960). This re-working of Bizet’s Carmen has Grace Chang giving us her Hong Kong version of the Habanera which is one of the oxymoronic all-time feel good moments in noir. She’s amazing.