Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Casque d'Or (1952)

Jacques Becker's Touchez Pas au Grisbi is a sharp film about aging gangsters. This film, made two years prior, has nothing to do with aging gangsters except that it feels like it might have been directed by one. It's a fairly standard noir love triangle, and the cast hits their marks like they know they're adhering to standards. Becker throws in some interesting wrinkles, notably the depiction of Simone Signoret's ostensible femme fatale. Signoret's the most interesting thing about this, in that her character is filling the femme fatale role almost by accident; she approaches the cliche from a sidelong angle, so that her character's actions drive the plot without ever feeling malicious or planned (she seems like she might actually like Serge Reggianni's luckless sap). There's also some stabs at class commentary -- most noticeably in the long central sequence at the Angel Gabriel, with the gangster and the carpenter squaring off while upper-class "swells" dance inside and marvel at the color of it all -- on which the film doesn't really follow through. Becker's torpid pacing eventually sinks this despite all best intentions; for a narrative built so heavily on inevitabilities to work (as this one is), you need breakneck pacing. You need the sense that the characters are hurtling towards their doom rather than crawling towards it.

Grade: C+


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