At the origin was a short film. In 1945, René Clément shot Ceux du rail, a sequence of anecdotes in honour of French railway workers during the Occupation. The producers encouraged the director to shoot new scenes, the film finally lasted 85 minutes, and La Bataille du rail (The Battle of the Rails) was born. In his first feature film, René Clément told the story of heroic acts of people in the Resistance who were doing all they could to prevent Germans getting provisions by sabotaging the rail tracks.
1946: flashback to the first edition of the Festival de Cannes with La Bataille du rail (The Battle of the Rails)
This was the year that Cannes became the lifeblood of international cinema. While the rest of the world was coming back to life after the Second World War, talents from all over the world were flocking to the Croisette for three weeks of Festival. Forty-four films were presented including La Bataille du rail (The Battle of the Rails) by René Clément, one of the first to win an award at the Festival.
The French Resistance is celebrated in La Bataille du rail (The Battle of the Rails). The film never once hinted at collaboration, at the image of the feeling that was dominant in France just after the war had ended. It is a combination of fiction and documentary, and was very popular. It is now considered to be one of the greatest post-war films.
In 1946, René Clément presented two films at Cannes. La Bataille du rail (The Battle of the Rails) and Le Père tranquille (Mr. Orchid). The second film also takes place during the Occupation and tells the story of a man in his fifties, who seems unassuming but is at the head of a resistance network. René Clément's career saw around thirty films made; they were often presented and successful at Cannes, like Monsieur Ripois (Knave of Hearts), which was awarded the Special Jury Prize in 1954.