Rene is not a bright guy. He was taught to kill by the Resistance. But the WW2 is over and he keeps on killing. He is condemned to death. In jail, expecting the presidential pardon, he mets... See full summary »
Rene is not a bright guy. He was taught to kill by the Resistance. But the WW2 is over and he keeps on killing. He is condemned to death. In jail, expecting the presidential pardon, he mets other condemned men. An anti-capital punishment drama, written and directed by a former lawyer. Written by
That was the second film dealing with justice in France in Cayatte's long career (1942-1978).François Truffaut was always putting him down,but won't you forget ,for a while,the new wavelet and their notorious fusty Cahiers du Cinema ?Cayatte is a name to reckon with.
If Richard Pottier("Meurtres" ) tackled euthanasia the same year (1950) as he did ("Justice est Faite")Cayatte was the first in France (and in the world?) to devote an entire film to express his disgust of death penalty.Think of it! It was 1952!It took a lot of guts and a lot of faith to dare such a thing at a time when lex talionis and punishing the criminal as a deterrent to others were the golden rules."What example?" the doctors says "the executions were no longer public as if they were ashamed of what they did"
The first part of the movie may seem weak by today's standards .But it's necessary to introduce René (a never better Marcel Mouloudji)and his background.In his own particular way,he predates Malle's "Lacombe Lucien" hero .One fights for the Resistance,and the other is a collaborator.But both are ignorant poor -René is even illiterate .René lives in a place where "dump" is too beautiful a word.His mother is a shrew who has always had one too many;his sister has been a whore since she was twelve ;his little brother is bound to be a delinquent. Another man sentenced to death has killed his baby girl: but he was exhausted after a hard day of work and as he couldn't sleep because his daughter was crying in their tiny flat he lost his mind.Not a judge can comprehend.Only a woman in a cafe knows better:if that man had been decently housed -just have a look at the lawyer's bourgeois parents' luxury house ,where's there's a "golden dish with every wish"- nothing would have happened cause that depressed man was a good father.
Cayatte puts the whole society on trial,particularly the bourgeois (the lawyer's father just looks up and pretends that he does not see when his son brings the little brother home)In his next movie,"Avant le Deluge" which is to be recommended ,Cayatte would denounce the bourgeois who do not know of the meaning of the word "responsibility".
By its second part ,the movie becomes almost unbearable,even today.Cayatte wanted his movie to be so.Nothing is spared the viewer: the condemned persons cell,where in the small hours they suddenly become frightened :is this dawn THE dawn?Will THEY come?Is IT in the prison? ( the word "guillotine " is never uttered ).Cayatte's directing becomes masterful when he depicts the corridor where a secret ceremony happens early early in the morning.Those men in grey suddenly enter the room and sweetly say "it's your turn ,son!arm up with courage!"
As often in Cayatte's work ,the screenplay is a bit muddled (the Corse episode is a bit too much,but at least it allows us to see great actress Madame Sylvie in two too brief scenes)but until the very end his "hope against hope" will not leave him down.As the lawyer waits for an eventual President's pardon for René ,there's a moving tracking in on his little brother's face .Cayatte does not want to comfort his audience,and this conclusion is the best he could think of.
Time has passed.In 1981,François Mitterrand abolished death penalty in France.One should never forget that men like Cayatte helped along the way .His movie was certainly as important as any of Godard's farces.
Like this?try these....
I want to live (Robert Wise,1958)
La vie,l'amour ,la mort (Claude Lelouch,1969)
Deux hommes dans la ville (Jose Giovanni,1972)
Le pullover rouge (Michel Drach,1979)
Dead man walking (Tim Robbins ,1996)
5 of 7 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?