Un singe en hiver (1962)

aka: It's Hot in Hell
Comedy / Drama


Un singe en hiver photo
A young man, Gabriel Fouquet, arrives in a coastal town in Normandy to visit his daughter, who is staying in a boarding school. He ends up lodging in a guesthouse run by the aged Albert Quentin and his wife Suzanne. To forget his troubles, Gabriel hits the bottle, not realising that the teetotal Albert was once a heavy drinker. Twenty years ago, the latter pledged never to touch alcohol again if he and his wife survived the war. Through his friendship with Gabriel, Albert becomes nostalgic about his past, recalling his time as a sailor on an expedition to China. To drown their sorrows, the two men embark on a drinking binge which quickly gets out of hand...
© filmsdefrance.com 2012

Film Review

Film poster
Un singe en hiver is a gentle comedy which takes a melancholic view of friendship, nostalgia and drink. It was based on a popular novel by the French writer Antoine Blondin. The film's classic status stems mainly from Verneuil's inspired decision to cast Jean Gabin and Jean-Paul Belmondo, the iconic standard-bearers for two different generations of French cinema, in the principal roles. Gabin and Belmondo play off each other perfectly, their on-screen rapport offering a very visible testimony of their off-screen friendship. (It is reported that Gabin became an active participant in friendly football matches which Belmondo organised during the location work for this film.)

Where the film is most effective and most poignant is in the way it brings together two very different characters, who, like lost children, forge a friendship that affords them a brief respite from their unsatisfying lives. Another of the film's pleasures is the deliciously tongue-in-cheek dialogue, provided by one of France cinema's most popular and talented screenwriters, Michel Audiard.

Although it looks a little flat and stagy when compared with the films the New Wave directors of the day were putting out, Un singe en hiver does have its charms. Brimming with manic energy, the youthful Belmondo brings a touch of anarchy to the film - the scene where he plays bullfighter to some irate motorists in a busy road offers a hint of the kind of madcap stunts which would earn him his reputation. Gabin's professionalism and unceasing ability to play any character à la perfection gives the film its quality feel and its striking humanism (the last scene of the film being devastatingly effective).

Although it has some shortcomings (Michel Magne's music is far too intrusive, and the budgetary limitations are all too apparent in the film's opening chapter), Un singe en hiver is overall a satisfying and memorable film. It is perceptive, witty, and is held together by an indefinable sense of poetry, providing a wistful but not depressing meditation on life.
The above article was written for filmsdefrance.com and should not be reproduced in any medium without the author's permission.


The director Henri Verneuil also worked with the actor Jean-Paul Belmondo on the films Cent mille dollars au soleil (1964), Le Casse (1971), Peur sur la ville (1975), Le Corps de mon ennemi (1976) and Les Morfalous (1984).

Film Credits

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