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In World War II, the illiterate, starving and alcoholic twenty years old René Le Guen fights to survive and lives with his dysfunctional family in a slum. The French Resistance invites and teaches him to kill Germans and traitors. When the war ends, he continues to kill and is arrested, judged and sentenced to death in the guillotine. While in prison waiting for a possible presidential pardon claimed by his lawyer, he meets other prisoners also waiting for the dishonored death.
Source : IMDb
It's not beyond the bounds of credibility that Ken Loach genuflects to Andre Cayatte morning noon and night because Cayatte was baring his bleeding heart when Loach was still squirreling his deep hatred of England in his subconscious awaiting release via a non-stop string of celluloid attacks on the terrible country where he is still happy to live. Unlike Loach Cayatte knew how to entertain as well as preach and spent the bulk of the 1940s giving the public the lift it needed to counter the War news. After making five films for Continental between 1942 and 1943 he teamed with Jacques Prevert to make the best of his entertainments by a country mile, Les Amants de Verone and then turned his attention to addressing social problems with this title being possibly the finest of them all. Being the craftsman that Loach is not Cayette is content to spend a couple of reels introducing his lead character whose background in a dysfunctional family makes him an ideal candidate for the Resistance to groom into a first-class killer. The problem is, of course, that once peace breaks out he is unable and/or unwilling to stop killing and inevitably is caught, tried and condemned. And this, as they say, is where the story really starts for in the condemned cell Cayatte is able both to record and register his contempt for the Penal system that still obtained in the early fifties; a system possibly unparalleled for a total lack of humanity that verged on the barbarous, one in which the condemned were given absolutely no warning of execution but merely 'surprised' in the night, manhandled out of the cell with a platitudinous Gallic equivalent of 'chin up'. Only in the daylight hours are the condemned sure of a brief respite. Cayette has turned out a masterly film which is at once harrowing to watch yet compulsive viewing.
Source : IMDb