Si Tous Les Gars du Monde is an entertaining tribute to the ham radio operators of the world. The story begins when a French shipping boat takes on an Arab passenger. While on the high seas, the Arab becomes seriously ill with a communicable disease that threatens the lives of everyone on board. Unable to reach the proper medical authorities, the boat sends out a desperate S.O.S., whereupon several amateur-radio enthusiasts of different nationalities spring into action…
Si tous les gars du monde / Devenaient de bons copains / Et marchaient la main dans la main / Le bonheur serait pour demain… Paul Fort’s celebrated poem is powerfully expressed in this cinematic hymn to fraternity, a heart-warming depiction of what might be achieved if mankind could set aside its differences and work for the common good of humanity. Whilst not immune from schmaltz and fanciful naivety, the film delivers its message with considerable charm and vigour. Absurd as its plot contrivances are (the episode in which American and Soviet officers temporarily suspend the Cold War and arrive at an improbable entente cordiale is hard to take seriously), it manages to work both as a gripping suspense drama and as an effective morality tale. The film’s obvious shortcomings (a tendency to stretch credulity to breaking point and a somewhat superficial treatment of racism) are easily forgiven, such is the warmth and sincerity with which the film is crafted.
The striking naturalism of the exterior location sequences and the total lack of big name actors give the film a touch of New Wave authenticity – which is odd given that it was directed by Christian-Jaque, one of the great standard-bearers of the quality tradition which the directors of the Nouvelle Vague were so keen to distance themselves from. Christian-Jaque is more closely associated with lavish period dramas such as Fanfan la Tulipe (1952) and Lucrèce Borgia (1953) than contemporary dramas such as this. Equally surprising is the fact that the screenplay was written by Henri-Georges Clouzot, whose own films show a far less rosy assessment of human nature. Prior to this, Clouzot had just made Les Diaboliques (1955), his most viciously cynical portrait of human frailty. Unlikely as it may seem, Clouzot shared something of Christian-Jaque’s unshakeable belief in the inherent goodness of mankind and initially wanted to direct the film himself.
One of the most striking things about Si tous les gars du monde, for a major French film of this time, is the absence of a star actor. This was a conscious decision on the part of the production team – a celebrity actor would have stolen the focus and undermined what the film is meant to be about, which is to celebrate the resourcefulness and compassion of the anonymous individual. The cast does include a few recognisable faces – Andrex, a once popular comedic actor reduced to minor supporting roles by the 1950s, Jean-Louis Trintignant, very early in his career, and Georges Poujouly, the child star of René Clément’s Jeux interdits (1952) – but, as in a good war film, it is the ensemble that matters, not individual contributions. Just as we are anxious over the desperate plight of the Breton fishermen (convincingly played by André Valmy and Jean Gaven), we are also moved by the dedication of those who seek to help them, moved and easily inspired to follow their example.
Subtitles:French hardcoded for non-French parts,No english subs