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Casque D'Or may take a little while to get into, with the first half hour being largely milieu and set-up, but once the plot kicks in it's a compelling doomed romance. Seen today it seems certain to have been one of Scorsese's influences in Gangs of New York, not least because Jacques Becker takes the standard period costume drama setting, the opening scenes almost an Auguste Renoir painting come to life, and then plays a down-and-dirty movie that pays no attention to the niceties you're expecting: these characters really are low lives. The knife-fight is tough stuff, and its aftermath beautifully staged, and the finale has real emotional power - not least the shots of Serge Reggiani's almost-dead waltz with Simone Signoret that in a more 'modern' (1940-50s) setting would have pegged out his fate from the moment he met her. Having only seen Signoret in her later haggard roles, it was also a surprise to see just how luminous she was in her youth. Impressive stuff.

StudioCanal's Blu-ray release offers a very impressive transfer marred only by their passion for really tiny subtitles, though curiously they've not included any of the extras from their earlier French release (home movie footage and audio interview with Serge Reggiani, stills and poster gallery and original theatrical trailer), offering only a new half-hour documentary on the film instead. Luckily this turns out to be surprisingly good, detailing the production problems (the film was stalled for years because of a dispute between Julien Dvivier and Becker over who had the right to direct it), the development of the script from a Louis Javert crime movie to a doomed romance and it's poor initial reception at the French box-office and from the critics before its international success prompted local audiences to take another look. Along with extensive interview footage with assistant director Alain Jessua, it also offers extracts from audio interviews with Reggiani, Signoret, Becker and Jean Renoir as well as incorporating part of the trailer.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 December 2011
Wonderfully filmed and acted story of tragic love amidst the French
underworld at the turn of the 20th century.

The complex, layered relationships, and subtle manipulations and
interplay between the characters show the hallmark of all Jacques
Becker's work, an interest in the subtle details of human behavior and
emotion, instead of grand, sweeping, complex plots.

Both romantic and cynical, and filmed without any attempt to create a
cliché 'period' look, this brings an air of reality and immediacy to a
story that in other hands seem familiar, maudlin, or trite.
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on 10 March 2017
Thrilled that Becker is being given a good, but a bit over-priced, series of releases.
He worked under Renoir for many years and in many ways is very much in his tradition. Casque d'Or is his masterpiece, but some would argue that the mose Bresson-like Le Trou equally has claims for that accolade.
The film is based on a true story of
The climax has the gut-renching quality of almost documentary. Indeed the period detail is so good that if someone told me that Becker and his crew went back to 1900 in a time-machine and it was a documentary, I would almost believe them. It's that convincing. Even down to the rather fuller-figure gangsters molls that were thoroughly in-keeping with the taste and fashion of the day. If it was remade today by Hollywood or the BBC, God forbid, they would never find star actresses big enough to play the roles. These women didn't work out at the gym and their diet and lifestyle meant that they quickly put on weight. Not un-like the legendary Signouret, who God bless her ate, drank and smoked and lived her life to the full so that within fifteen years she could play over-weight old women with authenticity and conviction.
Here, Simone Signouret was never lovelier, or more earthily attractive, as she takes her breakast
bowl of coffee in her diaphanous white nightdress. Here, Becker uses the interior leading seemlessly to the exterior, found in his mentor Renoir's, Une partie de campagne, and later borrowed by Truffaut, that can only come with the authenticity of location shooting, rather than the usual industry practice of cobbling together filmed exteriors with studio interiors.
I won't go into the plot, enjoy that if it's new to you, suffice to say that it's a deeply romantic love story of doomed lovers, every bit in the same league as Romeo and Juliet or Wuthering Heights.
Apart from the charismatic leads, it is peopled by a superb cast of villains and quirky eccentrics.
Much of it is filmed in the actual real-life locations, in ,the traditional working-class districts of eastern Paris, Bellville and Menilmontant, just before most of it was redeveloped, the outskirts and along the river.
The music is lovely and moving and the swirling waltz theme is quite rightly famous.
Unless you're a died-in-the-wool francophile, you might not have heard of Jacques Becker, who is easily on a par with the very best or Renoir, Vigo and Carne and Truffaut, and do yourself a favour and discover a completely accessible and unforgettable, timeless classic of French humanism and world cinema.
Now I hope that Canalplus think that the English-speaking world is ready for one of the last great hidden secrets of French cinema: Sacha Guitry, hitherto only available on expensive boxed sets and un-subtitled releases.

* For lovers of Westerns, not the North-American tribe but the name given to Parisian gangsters in the late 19th century, though there's absolutely no reason why fans of the wild west wouldn't enjoy it. After all, Paris was extremely wild at that particular time, and most other times, for that matter.
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"Casque D'Or," ("Golden Helmet," or "Golden Marie,") (1952), is a classic black and white French gangster film/crime drama/romance/costume drama, set in Paris at about the turn of the 20th Century, the 1890's "Belle Epoque." In springtime, at an Impressionistic, riverside, open-air dance hall, the members of Leca's gang are relaxing with their women. One of them, the cheerful prostitute Marie, aka "Casque d'Or" (Golden Helmet) meets Georges Manda, an ex-con trying to go straight as a carpenter. The pair instantly has eyes only for each other, an instance of what the French call a "coup de foudre," literally a thunderbolt of madness. But the man who keeps Marie, Roland is jealous, and the boss Leca himself has his eye on her, giving us a story of the glory of love, illicit romance, death, friendship and jealousy during the Belle Epoque. The movie was written and directed by Jacques Becker and it was not successful upon its initial French release. However, after it received critical acclaim in New York, and Simone Signoret's nomination for a BAFTA (the British equivalent of an Oscar) for her performance as Marie, it began to be recognized for the masterpiece it is. It has now been painstakingly restored by the Criterion Collection.

Becker came by his filmic Impressionism naturally, as he studied with the great French director Jean Renoir (La Grande Illusion - Special Edition [DVD] [1937]), son of the widely beloved Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir. "Casque" successfully recreates the ambiance of Paris at the turn of the century: it is bathed in dazzling golden light that frequently reflects off Signoret's golden hair. The exquisite black and white photography was by Robert Lefevbre, who had poetic ways to get the shots M. Becker wanted. The atmospheric music of Georges Van Parys will remind the viewer of the paintings and places of that era. Location shooting was done at Annet-sur-Marne, Seine-et-Marne, and Belleville, France: the latter then a small country town near Paris, now absorbed into the greater city. Sources say that Becker had wanted to make a gangland picture for years, but couldn't raise the financing, until he signed La Signoret, then at the height of her beauty, power, and sensuality - also at the height of her affair with Yves Montand (Wages Of Fear [DVD] [1952]), then simply a cabaret singer. But the director now needed a major part for Signoret, and so based his plot on actual police records of the time. The straight-forward, linear plot has almost the neatness of a De Maupassant short story. Despite it's being a gangland tale, there's little onscreen violence in the film, nor onscreen sex - but some of Manda's and Marie's fully-clothed scenes in this moody romance could scorch film. And despite the corsets and horse-drawn cabs, the film has more in common with the bleak, fatalistic films being released at the time it was made than it does with conventional costume pictures.

Georges Manda ( Serge ReggianiLa Ronde [1950] [DVD]), also a cabaret singer and then a close friend of both Montand's and Signoret's) has been released from prison where he served five years for an undisclosed crime. He's a soft-looking, taciturn man with a handlebar moustache, becomes a hard working carpenter, determined to go straight. But when Raymond (Raymond Bussieres), a fellow gang member with whom he served time in prison, introduces him to Marie, the life he was trying to build begins to crumple. Manda kills the jealous Roland (William Sabatier) in a knife fight. The gang boss Leca (Claude Dauphin Le Plaisir [DVD] [1952]), to the world a successful wine merchant, actually a cunning and Machiavellian outlaw, now sees his opportunity to get Manda out of the picture and take Marie for himself; but he fails to realize Manda will insist on doing the right thing.

The acting of the three stars is superb; although the laconic Manda speaks fewer than twenty lines in the film, we understand him perfectly. And Signoret gives us a strong, unashamed prostitute, wholly in love, but still mindful of who and what she is. Like Zola's "Nana," Marie is neither villain nor victim: she's an elemental force of nature, a femme fatale who will be responsible for the deaths of several men. (Mind you, this is a part frequently almost laughingly overplayed, but this star and director have not fallen into that trap.) Signoret is simply monumental, as one of Pablo Picasso's women. The action takes place over the course of only a few days, but in France that's apparently long enough - if passion runs high enough -- to change, or end a life. The intensity of the characters' emotions and the suddenness of their violence might tear another picture apart, but Becker, and his stars, tell their story with reserve.

An IMDB reviewer calling himself Melvelvit1, from the NYC suburbs, has done some stunning research and tells us:

"The bands of roughnecks of Belleville were also a passionate lot, not like the cynical pimps of Montmartre and La Chapelle. Here a man took out a knife for a girl he really cared for. In 1902 the story of 'Casque d'Or' made the headlines throughout Paris, both east and west. Two enemy bands of Apaches Mohicans de Paris - sporting their customary insignia of caps, bell-bottom trousers and polka-dotted scarves, had taken to the streets that lay between Belleville and Charonne: 'Le Popincourt' headed by the Corsican Leca, 'Les Orteaux' by Manda, l'Homme! The object of their dispute was not territory but a girl called Amélie Hélie, nicknamed 'Casque d'Or', with a stunning, golden-reddish mane. The confrontation turned into a fullscale pitched battle on Rue des Haies, in which neither knife blades nor guns were spared. To the inquisitive public prosecutor Manda retorted during his trial: 'We fought each other, the Corsican and myself, because we love the same girl. We are crazy about her. Don't you know what it is to love a girl?'"

Jacques Becker must be considered both a luminous artist and a director. His legacy is a trilogy of masterpieces: "Casque d'Or",Touchez Pas Au Grisbi [1956] [DVD] [1953],Le Trou [DVD] [1960]. Signoret, who was later often typecast as a femme fatale, won the Best Actress in a Leading Role for Room At The Top [1959] [DVD] (1959), and was also Oscar-nominated for Best Actress for Ship Of Fools [DVD] [1965] (1965.) You've got star and director at the top of their games here: it's a must-see.
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on 7 January 2012
It has taken me until the age of 65 to get involved deeply with classic French films. I can honestly state that, as a result, I feel that I have missed a very great deal for many years. Until I saw "Casque d'Or", I thought that "Madame de ..." and "Les Enfants du Paradis" were the best that I had seen and I was somewhat reticent in seeing this film. How wrong could I be?

Between them, Serge Reggiani (who almost made his part a silent one), Claude Dauphin and, in particular, Simone Signoret are, quite simply, wonderful and, in fact, unforgettable. Becker's direction is clear, uncluttered and beautiful, especially in the countryside scenes, which are very reminiscent of Renoir's "Une Partie de Campagne", and, indeed, Renoir's father's paintings. The filming and the acting here are all-important and the stars and the entire supporting cast are totally attuned to the story in hand.

Until you have seen Signoret in this film, I am sure that you might find it strange that she was so popular. Watch this film and you will see exactly why she is considered as one of the leading French actresses. Her screen-presence is astounding and you can also see why Manda (Reggiani) falls for her.

The strangest aspect of the film is that it was a failure in France when it was released. It is, quite simply, a masterpiece and should be seen by anyone who appreciates exceptionally well-made, and well-acted, films.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 June 2016
Jacques Becker’s classic 1952 tale of the early-20th century Parisian underworld neatly deceives us in its opening shots of a (seemingly) idyllic boat trip, reminiscent of one of the key films of Becker’s long-time mentor, Jean Renoir’s Partie De Campagne. Barely 10 minutes in, though, and we’re mired in a dark, urban tale of gangland shenanigans, jealousy, deceit and tragic love, at the centre of which is Simone Signoret’s sardonically glamorous demimondaine, Marie, whose 'love at first sight’ for Serge Reggiani’s now respectable ex-con, Georges Manda, antagonises her current beau William Sabatier’s minor crook, Roland, and attracts the attention of Claude Dauphin’s gangster Mr Big, the cool Félix Leca. What follows is an intricately plotted, acutely observed mix of criminal ruthlessness and corruption, doomed love and social commentary, laced with an often darkly comic and risqué script by Becker and evocatively shot in black-and-white by Robert Le Febvre.

The film’s relatively slow set-up is skilfully done as Georges reveals himself to be a reformed, honest grafter, tempted against his better judgment by Marie’s infatuation into the murky, amoral world of Leca. Becker gives us a particularly intriguing sequence as the ‘upstanding’ attitudes of the bourgeoisie, top-hatted and adorned in finery, are confronted (and, in the case of the women, manhandled) by Leca’s gang in a bar. Acting-wise, Becker’s central pairing of Signoret and Reggiani both impress, she, particularly, with her mix of outward self-confidence and latent vulnerability, and Becker gives us a touchingly poignant scene as the couple witness a church wedding ceremony, he with a degree of trepidation. But, for me, most impressive here is Dauphin’s ruthless gang boss, whose cool matter-of-factness in his disdain for human life is chillingly portrayed, an effect accentuated by Becker’s skilful plotting, as Leca reveals that he will sacrifice anything (and anyone) in his quest to possess Marie. Becker’s narrative does have a certain sense of inevitability about it, but this does not detract from its progress to what is a memorably macabre denouement.

Casque D’Or provides further evidence (if it were needed) of the quality of French film-making during the middle decades of the 20th century – when the likes of Renoir, Carné, Clouzot, Ophuls, Melville, Dassin (an 'adopted’ Frenchman), etc were at their peak – where the mise-en-scène, often mixing dark (noir-like), tragic, romantic, risqué and comedic themes, had something uniquely French (often Parisian, of course) about it and tied directly to this most productive period of world cinema.
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HALL OF FAMEon 15 January 2009
This is Belle Époque Paris, which can be a dangerous world where there are few second chances, and none for lovers. Innocence seems to have been long ago wrung out of Marie (Simone Signoret). She's a prostitute and the bought woman of Roland, a handsome, arrogant member of Felix Leca's gang, a group of bullyboy thieves, pimps and murderers. Leca (Claude Dauphin) combines slyness, danger and oiliness in equal measure. Leca wants Marie, and on his terms. She's beautiful in a coarse and knowing way, with a swagger and a hand on her hip, a gangster's girl who takes being slapped as part of the life. When Marie meets Georges Manda, "Jo" (Serge Reggiani), a man who had been part of the life, had served time and now is a carpenter, everything changes. In the dance at the start of the movie, with the gangsters in their tight suits, their women in flouncy gowns and ribbons, cheap waltzes playing, beer and wine on the tables, Marie sees Jo, likes him and flirts. For Jo, he can't take his eyes off her. The music plays on, they dance. The next day Marie sets out to see Jo at his carpenter's shop. Her feelings deepen in some inexplicable way. Marie regains a measure of innocence with Jo and we watch this happen. Jo will do anything to protect her. Marie will do anything to protect Jo. Leca, always there, is determined to have his way.

What first appears to be a turn-of-the-century tale about gangsters and their women turns seamlessly and with foreboding into a hopeless and emotional love story. When we last see Marie I started to choke up. Does Casque d'Or, the story of Marie and Jo, reach the level of tragedy? Probably not, but it will do.

Jacques Becker, the director, didn't make many movies. He was 54 when he died. Le Trou is a tough, nerve-wracking and ironic tale of several prisoners who attempt to dig their way to freedom. Touchez Pas au Grisbi is a gangster film, but even more a view of what middle age will do to us, even gangsters. You won't know whether to smile or just shake your head when Jean Gabin has to reach for his glasses to read a phone number.

It also is somehow pleasantly satisfying to recall Signoret and Reggiani four years earlier in the opening and closing sequences of La Ronde, she the prostitute who loses her heart and he the soldier who quickly forgets her.
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on 23 January 2015
Jacques Becker's romantic thriller is set in the Paris underworld at the end of the 19th century and features a radiant performance from the still beautiful Simone Signoret as the gangster's moll who falls in love with carpenter Serge Regianni much to the annoyance of crime boss Claude Dauphin. The scenes of the lovers idyll in the countryside are reminiscent of the best of Renoir and make the violent scenes even more effective when they come. The period and setting is richly evoked and the final scene of the lovers embraced in a ghostly dance is unforgettable.
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on 15 March 2009
Casque D'Or is the often underrated director Jacques Becker (Le Trou, Touchez pas au Grisbi)masterpiece. Set in a world of prostitutes and gangsters in fin-de-siécle Paris the film is among the best from the golden age of French cinema. The plot, which is based on a true story recounts a tragic sequence of treachery, murder and death by guillotine. Superb acting by Simone Signoret and Serge Reggiani as the doomed couple gives the film an extra dimension. The eminent photography and its richly detailed evocation of period and milieu make the film most momorable. It's no wonder why Casque D'Or ranks among the best European films of the 1950's.
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on 23 January 2012
I really enjoyed this film. Simone Signoret as the gangster's moll was the star of the show,what a marvelous actress!able to convey more with a mere glance or facial expression than most of todays so called stars could convey in their entire careers.This film has drama,romance and violence in almost equal measure,none of which are overdone or overplayed.The result is ,for me,about as near perfection filmwise as one could hope to get.A classic!
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