René Clair's Porte des lilas is based on René Fallet's novel La Grand Ceinture, and it is fitting that a very rare acting appearance of one of the main stars, the awesome singer George Brassens, was a friend of Fallet. He plays L'Artiste, an unemployed guy like his friend Juju (Pierre Brasseur), an alcoholic who frequents the local café run by Alphonse (Raymond Bussières), whose daughter Maria (Dany Carrel) is in constant presence there.
And then along comes Pierre Barbier (Henri Vidal), a man who's killed three men and is escaping from the police. Barbier hides in L'Artiste's cellar, and being anarchists (Brassens is in some respects playing to type) the two friends conceal him from the law. Meanwhile Maria, who has fallen in love with Barbier, wants to go away with him, but the problem for the now sober Juju is that he's fallen in love with Maria. Maria obtains the money for Barbier's escape, with which she intends to leave with him. But on learning that Barbier isn't interested and will simply run away with the money, Juju kills him with Barbier's own gun.