According to Ezinereligion, the Thirties opened, as in the rest of the world, in the name of the economic crisis marked by the collapse of the Wall Street Stock Exchange (1929), which continued in France for the whole decade, and Pathé and Gaumont experienced serious difficulties.. With the advent of sound, however, French production took advantage of the new opportunities offered by the constraint of language, which had changed the rules of import and export, and rose to 139 films in 1931. The Impressionist movement ended and the last fires ceased. of Surrealism, the early Thirties were dominated by the popular and everyday dimension, with some element, in Clair’s cinema, centered on the surprises of destiny. With Le million (1931; The million) the director staged, in a style between operetta and comedy, the tortuous journey of a winning lottery ticket that passes from hand to hand until it returns to its owner; in À nous la liberté (1931; To me freedom) he again proposed a story inspired by luck and hope, in a society hit by inflation; with Quatorze juillet (1932; Through the streets of Paris) he returned to the theme of the collective party, in a populist exaltation of simplicity, while the failure of Le dernier milliardaire (1934; The last billionaire) convinced him to emigrate to England. J. Feyder made La kermesse héroïque (1935; La kermesse heroica), a singular costume film about the passage of the Spanish army to Flanders in the 18th century, with citations of Flemish painting, which preceded what would have been a few years after the fate of France. Jean Vigo, with only two documentaries and two films, he added his name to the great directors of the time: in Zéro de conduite (1933; Zero in Conduite) he effectively described reactionary teaching methods, and in L’Atalante (1934) he told the life of two young spouses on a boat in the canals of Paris, with a style that went beyond realism, reaching an absolute control of the aesthetic dimension of the image, to which he added a profound social criticism. Starting from 1935 the production dropped again to 100-120 films per year; however, the reconquest of the national market started in 1930 continued: in 1937 the receipts of French films thus exceeded those of foreign films, for the first time since 1917. The crisis ended up favoring independent productions, first-time directors and those considered inconvenient by the cinema official; the France it became synonymous with new possibilities, a transit territory for directors exiled from Germany before landing in Hollywood, such as Fritz Lang and Billy Wilder. Even if the economic conditions were difficult, or perhaps for this very reason, one of the most important cinematographic currents in the history of the country was born: poetic realism (v. Realism). Directors with heterogeneous training and character (Jean Renoir, Marcel Carné, Julien Duvivier) were inspired by Naturalism framing it, on the dramatic side, in dark stories from crime news, or, on the romantic one, in a fabulous and primeval vision of feelings: images they served as a counterpoint to the texts of skilled writers such as Jacques Prévert and Charles Spaak, the greatest screenwriters of the period. Renoir had started the business in the 1920s (Nana, 1926, Nanà; Tire-au-flanc, 1928), but only at the beginning of the following decade was he able to express a mature style. Thus he created Boudu sauvé des eaux (1932; Boudu saved from the waters), a hymn to the freedom of homeless people and their lack of rules; Toni (1935), a drama about immigration and social integration performed by non-professional actors; Le crime de Monsieur Lange (1935; The crime of Mr. Lange), an ironic film, pervaded by a comic streak, in which the director’s political commitment emerges with great originality. This was followed by La grande illusion (1937; La grande illusione), a cornerstone of anti-similar cinema, and La règle du jeu (1939; The rule of the game), a complex work on the intersections between theater, life and representation. The director’s name is also associated with that of the Ciné-Liberté production cooperative, affiliated with the Popular Front which, through a national subscription and a public issue of quotas, financed two of his films: La Marseillaise (1937; La Marseillaise), commemoration of the revolutionary philosophy, and La vie est à nous (1936), an electoral propaganda work produced by the Communist Party.
Carné, after minor attempts, began its great season towards the end of the Thirties, when, assisted by the scripts of Prévert, he made Quai de brumes (1938; The port of the mists), a melodrama immersed in distressing and rarefied atmospheres that revealed the actress Michèle Morgan, and Le jour se lève (1939; Alba tragica), again a melodrama, centered on a man who commits a passionate murder, with a preponderant use of flashbacks. Duvivier became well known in the second half of the 1930s with Pépé le Moko (1936; The bandit of the casbah), who tried to give a romantic aura to the criminals of Algiers, and La fin du jour (1938; The prisoners of the dream). Pagnol, whose works are characterized by elements of poetic realism, after having achieved notoriety as a playwright, he landed in the cinema as a screenwriter and producer; the first films he produced derive from his theatrical trilogy, Marius (1931) by Alexander Korda, Fanny (1932) by Marc Allégret and César (1936), which also represented his directorial debut; always showed a deep connection with the countryside or the sea, drawing on feuilleton and offering a mixture of irony and drama, with a particular comedy tone which in some cases, as in Le Schpountz (1937; Lo Schpountz), resulted openly in the comic. Guitry’s cinema instead oscillated between a mundane-decadent character and an experimental virtuosity but too tied to a parlor histrionics, as in Le roman d’un tricheur (1936; The novel of a baro), articulated on different temporal levels and made with different techniques according to the moments. Pagnol and Guitry contributed, with Clair and Renoir, to the formation of that comedy of literary and theatrical tradition, with scripts articulated on exchanges of roles and frequent exits and entrances, which would characterize French cinema even later. Among the other directors of the Thirties we must remember Pierre Chenal and Jean Grémillon, while among the actors Jean Gabin excelled, present in the cast of almost all the great films of the period, flanked by Louis Jouvet, Jules Berry, Pierre Fresnay, Marcel Dalio, Simone Simon, Arletty.