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film history

Straight Outta Algiers: Pépé le Moko, David Bowie, and the Representation of Working-Class Self-Transformation

Last week in my film noir colloquium, we watched Pépé le Moko (1937), the French poetic realist masterpiece about a French jewel thief holed up in the Casbah in Algiers, longing for escape.[1]  The film is largely about working class self-transformation. In the Casbah, Pépé (Jean Gabin) lives like a king, enjoying wealth generated by a big jewel heist that took place in Paris two years earlier, the adoration of the other denizens of the Casbah, and the protection of his surroundings.  He and the police both understand that, so long as Pépé is in the Casbah, they cannot capture Read more