Title: Casque d’Or
Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance
Director: Jacques Becker
Music: Georges Van Parys
Cinematography: Robert Lefebvre
Jacques Becker’s belle époque tragedy of a pair of star-crossed lovers, Marie (Signoret) and Georges (Reggiani), she is a mistress of Roland (Sabatier), who is the underling of the local Apache gang, mastered by Félix Leca (Dauphin), and he is an unassuming carpenter, their encounter is occasioned by their common friend Raymond (Bussières), another member of the the Leca gang, through DP Lefebvre’s lithely swirling choreography, their destiny is sealed through a wordless dance, while jealousy is simmering with impending menace.
Strikingly, words are inessential in Becker’s narrative, emotion runs the gamut without the help of verbose dialogue, one expression or gesture is simply enough to deliver the unspoken intention and determination, to hit the bull’s eye of being compelling, heartfelt, even agonizing in the climax, which marks a great achievement and testimony of how cinema can be a first-rate storyteller, trimming down the redundant bells-and-whistles, just sticking to those what makes our characters tick: the encounter, the duel, the elope, the scheme, the revenge and the guillotine.
Simone Signoret, shoulders on the triple identities as a poised courtesan, a romantic inamorata and a reluctant moll, leaves her most iconic screen persona in her prime, under Becker’s aegis, the camera unsparingly aims at her in stunning close-ups enveloped with divine halo (thanks to the heightened lighting). Marie is a dauntless pursuer, she lives for passion, for love, living in the present, a force-of-life so irresistible and indefatigable. Interestingly, Reggiani’s Georges is not the traditional hero type, his average look and lean physique, should have triggered far more maternal nature of protection from her than a fervent passion act, yet, Georges has the spine to be a martyr out of genuine devotion to friendship and moral integrity, which eventually will wholeheartedly win a woman’s heart.
Dauphin’s smirky presence as Félix Leca persuasively draws on the sophistication of being a Mafia ringleader, the murky dynamism of his reign over the henchmen gives as much as pleasure as the central romance. To a large extent, CASQUE D’OR (golden hat in literal translation, which refers to Marie’s representative coiffure) is seminally inspiring and majestically executed at its time, an unforgettable Parisian tale-of-woe but shines with its glittery black-and-white enticement, as the introductory piece of Becker’s oeuvre, it bode well than my expectation, bravo!