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Always unpredictable, René Clément here turned to Zola's tale of alcoholism and the poor (L'Assommoir) to mount a terrific exercise in literalism. The movie's images are so carefully arranged as to sustain the illusion for whole stretches that its story of a club-footed laundress and her misfortunes was indeed shot on location in 1850s Paris. The film is a succession of set pieces designed to impress: the fight in the laundry between Gervaise and a rival, the bored wedding guests wandering round the Louvre, the crippling of Gervaise's roofer husband. And impress they do, though as usual with Clément it all seems a bit soulless. The last few moments - Gervaise's little daughter playing with a ribbon while the child's mother stuns herself on absinthe - are a reminder that in the Zola context, this counts as a prequel to Renoir's 1926 Nana.

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Cast and crew

Director: René Clément
Screenwriter: Jean Aurenche, Pierre Bost
Cast: Suzy Delair
Armand Mestral
Jacques Harden
Jany Holt
Maria Schell
François Périer