When Marie and Georges dance together in the opening scenes of Casque D'Or (1952) we know from their smouldering looks that we have a serious case of amour fou on our hands. We also know that their love is doomed because Marie runs with a gang of vengeful, dandyish gangsters – the Ant Hill Mob but with straw boaters, silk waistcoats and elaborate coiffures – who use their ornate flick knives for more than just cutting their fromage.
Jacques Becker directs this handsome Belle Epoque period piece at a measured pace, giving the couple's tragic path a terrible inevitability. His restraint is also in evidence in the staging of a nocturnal knife-fight, played out with desperate slowness while only the combatants' laboured breathing and the distant barking of a dog break the silence. The great Simone Signoret infuses the role of Marie with a gutsy, playful defiance which raises her character far above the typical tart-with-a-heart. [Keir Roper-Caldbeck]