Un singe en hiver (1962)
aka: It's Hot in Hell
A film directed by Henri Verneuil

Genre: Comedy / Drama

Review published:


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

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.

© James Travers 2003

The above article was written for filmsdefrance.com and should not be reproduced in any medium without the author's permission.

Other recommended comedy/drama films of the 1960s from France include the following: Claude Chabrol's Landru (1963), Claude Chabrol's Paris vu par... (1965), Philippe de Broca's Le Roi de coeur (1966), René Allio's La Vieille dame indigne (1965) and Jean-Luc Godard's Week End (1967).

Where to watch this film

The film Un singe en hiver may be available on amazon via the following links:
  • amazon.co.uk
  • amazon.fr
  • amazon.com

Film Credits

  • Director: Henri Verneuil
  • Script: François Boyer, Michel Audiard (dialogue), Antoine Blondin (novel)
  • Photo: Louis Page
  • Music: Michel Magne
  • Cast: Jean Gabin (Albert Quentin), Jean-Paul Belmondo (Gabriel Fouquet), Suzanne Flon (Suzanne Quentin), Gabrielle Dorziat (Victoria), Hella Petri (Georgina), Marcelle Arnold (L'infirmière de la pension), Charles Bouillaud (Le chauffeur de taxi), Anne-Marie Coffinet (Simone), André Dalibert (Maurice, le brigadier), Hélène Dieudonné (Joséphine), Geneviève Fontanel (Marie-Jo), Gabriel Gobin (Un habitué du café), Sylviane Margollé (Marie), Lucien Raimbourg (Gardiner), Hans Verner (Le touriste allemand), Paul Frankeur (Esnault), Noël Roquevert (Landru), Édouard Francomme (Un habitué du café), René Hell (Un habitué du café), Billy Kearns (Un automobiliste), Paul Mercey (Le marchand de poissons), Henri Verneuil (Un officier allemand)
  • Country: France
  • Language: French
  • Support: Black and White
  • Runtime: 105 min
  • Aka: It's Hot in Hell ; A Monkey in Winter

Related Links

Here are some other pages that you may find helpful:
Buy/watch this movie:
Discover the best in French cinema:
Explore best French films by genre:

Recent French films to watch out for in 2015

Best of 0
Best of 1
Best of 2
Best of 3

For books and DVDs

Visit our on-line stores to browse the latest films out on DVD and books relating to cinema. Any purchases will allow us to maintain and grow filmsdefrance.com.

Increase your knowledge of French cinema

Best of 0
Best of 1
Best of 2
Best of 3

More to discover on filmsdefrance.com