This 1939 gem is no whodunnit. We know from the off that François (Jean Gabin) has shot dead a sharp-suited man. The police have the building surrounded. We know who. The question is why? Since this is a French masterpiece we can guess his reasons are romantic, and over one long night of the soul the story unfolds in flashback, beginning with François falling in love at first sight. It’s a beautiful scene: a woman (Jacqueline Laurent) wanders into the factory where he works as an ironworker holding a bunch of flowers. Her name is the same as his – Françoise – and they’re both orphans. It’s meant to be, surely.
But even in this first flush there’s a sadness, when Françoise’s flowers wilt in the heat of the factory. The couple are head-over-heels, but still, you can see the faultlines. François wants the simple things in life, bike rides and picking flowers by the river. Françoise dreams of Cannes and casinos. Then she falls under the spell of Monsieur Valentin (Jules Berry) a sinister circus dog trainer. It’s a desperately sad love story, beautifully told.
Cast and crew