It’s amazing that a film of this quality should be so completely unknown. Made in 1937, it’s the masterpiece of Jean Gremillon, Jean Renoir’s only serious rival in the prewar French cinema. Difficult to define stylistically (which is perhaps the secret of its greatness), the film consists of a series of tonal variations on the theme of the femme fatale, ranging from romanticism to naturalism to sophisticated comedy. Jean Gabin is “Gueule d’amour” (“Lover Lips”), a soldier famous in his garrison town for his way with women; when he meets the mysterious Mireille Balin (Gabin’s costar in Pepe le Moko), he gives up everything to follow her to Paris. Gremillon seems the master of every style he attempts, but his genius lies in the smooth linking of those various styles; the film seems to evolve as it unfolds, changing its form in imperceptible stages. In French with subtitles. 90 min.