Sog.: based on the novel Le Fils Cardinaud (1942) by Georges Simenon. Scen.: Michel Audiard, Gilles Grangier. F.: André Thomas. M.: Paul Cayatte. Scgf.: Robert Bouladoux. Mus.: Henri Verdun. Int.: Jean Gabin (François Cardinaud), Renée Faure (Mademoiselle), Paul Frankeur (Drouin), Claude Sylvain (Raymonde Babin), José Quaglio (Mimile Babin), Georgette Anys (Titine Babin), Paul Faivre (monsieur Cardinaud padre), Léonce Corne (Charles Mandine), Florelle (Sidonie Vauquier). Prod.: Les Films Fernand Rivers. DCP. Bn.
A year after Gas-oil, Gilles Grangier renewed his association with Michel Audiard and Jean Gabin in an adaptation of the Georges Simenon novel, Le Fils Cardinaud (1942). Released in July 1956, Le Sang à la tête sold almost two million tickets at the box office. It was, according to the actor, the best collaboration between the producer and the novelist. Georges Simenon set some 20 of his novels and short stories in La Rochelle, where he lived for 13 years. In Le Sang à la tête, thanks to filming on location, Gilles Grangier managed to paint a picture of everyday life in this provincial town and the social relationships that brought it to life. He was sensitive in his approach to local colour, with those in the fish trade – sellers, sorters and hawkers – rubbing shoulders with owners of bistros, the bourgeois and prostitutes. These depictions give the story a documentary feel. The Les Halles de la Rochelle market is reminiscent of the one in Paris, where Julien Duvivier filmed Gabin the same year in Deadlier Than the Male (Voici le temps des assassins). This setting also supports the portrayal of François Cardinaud (Jean Gabin), a typical Simenon character. A former fish merchant who, after 30 years of working in the trade, becomes the owner of a trawler company in a town where “only the sea doesn’t belong to him”, Cardinaud attracts envy. His wife, Marthe, leaves the marital home to be with a lover from her youth. Vulnerable and dishonoured, Cardinaud goes in search of Marthe, and tries to understand the reasons for her departure. In the mid-1950s, this portrait of a patriarchal figure, shaken by his wife’s sudden bid for freedom, was still uncommon. For Gabin, the role of ‘the old man’, as Grangier liked to call him, was unprecedented. Grangier’s adaptation, unlike the novel, featured no theft or crime. It was more of a quest than an inquest. It owes its success to this sobriety of action. Grangier who, like Simenon, maintains close personal connections with his characters, reveals to us the quest of a man full of introspection, in the grip of moral solitude.
Stéphanie Salmon and Nicolas Le Gall