“In case of Accident” – Rediscovering ‘En Cas de Malheur’ (France 1958 – 122 mins).

Posted in Rediscover by - June 21, 2014
“In case of Accident” – Rediscovering ‘En Cas de Malheur’ (France 1958 – 122 mins).

Known overseas as ‘Love Is My Profession’, the enthralling French drama ‘En Cas de Malheur’ was the movie that proved that, when given the right material, Brigitte Bardot could really act. Co-starring with one of the greatest French actors (Jean Gabin), she more than held her own, which in itself was no mean feat.

Powerful attorney Andre Gobillot (Gabin) takes on the case of a small-time thief; Yvette Maudet (Brigitte Bardot), a beautiful but damaged young soul. A bond grows between the two and it’s not long before Andre takes Yvette as his mistress. Although Andre is able to shower Yvette with gifts, her heart belongs to another man; Mazzetti (Franco Interlenghi), a young and reckless student. This impossible love affair between the much older, sensible lawyer and the wild and uncontrollable waif, can only lead to an inevitable, doomed conclusion.

French movie icon Jean Gabin had by now been on screen for thirty years and was still giving outstanding performances. Here he is quiet and eloquent, but helpless in assisting Bardot’s wayward young thief. It was a good year for Gabin, who was also superb in Jean-Paul Le Chanois’ atmospheric version of Victor Hugo’s ‘Les Misérables’, playing Jean Valjean in a quiet and brooding manner, yet heroic at the same time. For me though, it is Bardot that impresses me the most in this movie. After seeing her in such frothy, colourful romantic comedies such as ‘Mam’zelle Pigalle’ and ‘Plucking the Daisy’ (both ’56), it was impressive to see Brigitte give such an understated yet strong adult performance. Also impressive is Edwige Feuillère as Gabin’s strong-willed wife Viviane, feeling unthreatened by her husbands infidelities. Among Feuillère’s other memorable movies was the 1951 finishing school drama ‘Pit of Loneliness’, playing a headmistress who becomes the object of a female student’s affections.

Provocative director; Claude Autant-Lara, had earlier made the dark fantasy ‘Marguerite of the Night’ (’55), with Yves Montand, and the comedy-drama ‘The Trip Across Paris’ (’56), with Jean Gabin . A non-conformist, Claude was no fan of the incoming French New-wave and his career would peter out in the Sixties.

A controversial movie on its release; ‘En Cas de Malheur’ contains a couple of scenes of brief nudity that caused quite a stir at the time, but are pretty tame by todays standards. There is a beautiful score by famed French composer René Cloërec, which helps convey the sadness and vulnerability of Bardot’s character and situation.

While Jean-Luc Godard’s ‘Le Mepris’ (’63) is my favourite Bardot movie, it is this film that contains my favourite Bardot performance. It’s a terrific turn in a powerful and often moving film. The ending may be filled with grief and tragedy, but this was not Hollywood, and sadly is true to how these characters lives would most likely have played out. ‘En Cas de Malheur’ is a top-drawer French drama from their pre New-wave period. Bouquets all round.

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