The Hero’s Journey in “Pepe le Moko”

Wanted Parisian gangster Pépé has managed to elude the police by hiding out in Algiers. However, his increasing restlessness and chance meeting with a sexy French dame conspire to drive him back into the open.

The film for which French director Julien Duvivier and leading man Jean Gabin will probably always be best remembered. A gangster thriller with a richly detailed setting, it’s an acknowledged forerunner to 1940s film noir.

Gabin is riveting as the titular ladies’ man and ‘prince of plunder’, wanted on two continents but safe from capture if he stays within the notorious and labyrinthine Casbah district of colonial Algiers. Will it be the schemes of the unctuous local copper or Pépé’s passion for a sexy, jewellery-laden tourist from his native Paris that force him to blow his cover?

Populated by fascinating characters and with a tough sensibility, this is pulp noir at its finest — and way ahead of its time.