JACQUES BECKER: A MASTER BEFORE THE WAVE
An enormously versatile director, Jacques Becker (1906–1960) distinguished himself in the French film industry with a series of box office successes that saw him oscillating between period melodramas, working-class romances, nail-biting studies in suspense, and even an absorbing biopic of a great artist. Becker, in a career that was cut short by his untimely death at age 53, counted Francois Truffaut, Jean Renoir and Jean-Pierre Melville among his admirers. This series provides a healthy sampling of Becker’s strong body of work, including all three features (Antoine et Antoinette, Rendezvous in July, Edouard et Caroline) that comprise his “Youth Trilogy.” Special Thanks to Rialto Pictures and Amélie Garin-Davet and Laurence Geannopulos of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy.
- Sat., Jan. 19 | 7:00 PM4070 Vilas Hall
Becker, brings his humanism and gift for careful, realistic observation to this classic prison-escape movie, the last work of his career. Four Parisian cellmates collaborate in digging a tunnel to freedom, but matters are complicated when a fifth member joins the team, leading to suspicion and uneasiness. An adaptation of a novel by real-life ex-convict Jose Giovanni who based his story upon a true jail-break, Le Trou is a tense story of collective struggle, mistrust, and loyalty.
- Sat., Jan. 26 | 7:00 PM4070 Vilas Hall
Based on the last year (1919-20) in the tragically short life of Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani (played by Philipe, soon to die young himself), this biopic charts the artist’s poverty, struggle for authenticity, thwarted love, and eventual downfall. Becker’s personal and moving film stands also as a bittersweet paean to the Left Bank milieu of Paris’ early twentieth-century bohemian quarter. The great international cast also includes Euro-superstars Lila Kedrova, Lilli Palmer, and Lea Padovani. DCP courtesy of the Institut Français, Paris.
- Sat., Feb. 2 | 7:00 PM4070 Vilas Hall
Returning to work in France after becoming a star in Hollywood, Jourdan plays a race-car driver and unfaithful husband whose wife (Vernon) moves out and establishes residence on the title street. Becker’s “romantic comedy of decadence, frivolity, and cynicism seems imbued with the very high-gloss lacquer that it derides...Beneath its blithe humor, it is a bleak vision of mismatched lives and misguided mores” (Richard Brody, The New Yorker). Print courtesy of the Institut Français, Paris.
- Sat., Feb. 9 | 7:00 PM4070 Vilas Hall
Before the Nouvelle Vague denoted a film movement, it referred to the postwar generation of French youth: twentysomethings like aspiring actress Christine (Courcel), her anthropologist boyfriend Lucien (Gélin), and their fun, good-looking friends. Becker, an eternal inspiration for Truffaut and others, captured the spirit of the time with this effervescent, ultimately revelatory romantic comedy, a prototype for the French New Wave ten years before it hit shore. (ZZ)
- Sat., Feb. 16 | 7:00 PM4070 Vilas Hall
Pianist Edouard (Gélin) and his wife Caroline (Vernon) are expected at her snobby uncle's house for a party, but an evening-long argument threatens to derail Edouard's plans to wow the fancy party guests with his musical skills. “Has the allure of an American screwball comedy but with increased class-consciousness” (David Mermelstein, The Wall Street Journal).
- Sat., Feb. 16 | 8:45 PM4070 Vilas Hall
With a brisk pace and an abundance of charm, director and co-screenwriter Becker (Casque d’Or) has crafted a splendid comic melodrama. Young, passionate working-class marrieds Antoine and Antoinette live in a cramped Parisian apartment. Though happy, they believe their lives and social standing would be much improved...if only they could find that mislaid lottery ticket! Through a clever and subtle accumulation of social details and multiple, finely sketched characters, the decidedly humanist Becker creates a fully realized inter-connected universe within one block of the 18th arrondissement.
- Sat., Feb. 23 | 7:00 PM4070 Vilas Hall
Becker’s masterpiece centers on the conflicts of three jealous men – two gangsters and one honest carpenter - as they vie for the affections of the blonde beauty Marie (an enchanting Signoret). An important precursor to the French New Wave, especially Truffaut’s Jules et Jim, Becker sets the action against the atmospheric backdrop of the Belle Époque Parisian underworld.
- Sat., Mar. 2 | 7:00 PM4070 Vilas Hall
A womanizing fashion designer (Rouleau) finally finds love, but unfortunately he has fallen for his best friend’s fiancée (Presle). This wonderful cinematic precursor to Phantom Thread counts among its admirers Jean-Paul Gaultier, who said Falbalas “gave me my vocation in life. It directed the way I should make fashion.”