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Jacques Becker

January 4 - 31

"Becker saw like no other filmmaker. He created entire worlds from the smallest details."--Bilge Ebiri, Village Voice

From January 4 to 31, the Gene Siskel Film Center, in collaboration with the Institut Français and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, presents ten films by Jacques Becker, an important yet neglected director whose career forms a bridge between French cinema’s Golden Age of the 1930s and its New Wave of the 1960s.

Becker (1906-60) began his film career as assistant to Jean Renoir on eight films from Renoir’s 1930s heyday, including BOUDU SAVED FROM DROWNING, A DAY IN THE COUNTRY, and GRAND ILLUSION. The term assistant director does not do justice to Becker’s importance as Renoir’s closest friend and collaborator during this great period. He was a key figure in swaying Renoir in the leftist direction that characterizes his thirties films. Becker intended to direct the Popular Front masterpiece THE CRIME OF MONSIEUR LANGE (1936) until it was taken over by Renoir. A strong sense of class consciousness would inform nearly all of the films Becker later directed.

Another attempt to direct was interrupted by the war. After spending two years in a prison camp, Becker finally made his first feature film, the crime thriller DERNIER ATOUT, in 1942. He began to attract serious critical attention with his next film, the caustic rural drama IT HAPPENED AT THE INN (1943). After the war, Becker consolidated his reputation with ANTOINE AND ANTOINETTE (1946), the first in a series of light romances filled with casual observations about Parisian life.

In 1952 he directed the grand tragic romance CASQUE D’OR, which made a star of Simone Signoret and became Becker’s most celebrated film. For the rest of his career Becker moved easily from genre to genre, including crime (TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI), melodrama (RUE DE L’ESTRAPADE), Fernandel vehicle (ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES), and biopic (THE LOVERS OF MONTPARNASSE). He died at age 54, just after completing the prison-escape drama LE TROU, his last and, in the opinion of many, finest film.

Becker was one of the few veteran filmmakers championed by the rising Young Turks of the French New Wave, who lauded his genius for digression, his preference for moment-to-moment realism over a dominant plot line, and his ability to burrow into the world of a film no matter how slight or generic its story. François Truffaut, an especially devoted admirer, wrote, “It is not so much his choice of subject that distinguishes Becker as it is his treatment, and the scenes he selects to illustrate it… He will skimp over what another director would treat most seriously in order to linger over the characters eating breakfast, buttering a roll, brushing their teeth.”

Becker’s directorial temperament is that of an observer. This does not mean that he is neutral or detached but that, rather than imposing a predetermined scheme on the film, he allows its truth to emerge from an accumulation of countless small impressions and observations that illuminate the characters and their social milieu. Even when ostensibly focused on an individual, as in FALBALAS, or on a couple, as in ANTOINE ET ANTOINETTE, Becker’s richly centrifugal style sweeps out to capture the wealth of life around them, and the social relations that shape that life. Becker said, “I hate leaving people in a vacuum; in my view nothing is more false. I cannot conceive a character without worrying about the manner in which he lives, his social contacts, whatever class he may belong to.”

Special thanks to Eric Di Bernardo, Rialto Pictures; Amélie Garin-Davet and Laurence Geannopulos, Cultural Services of the French Embassy.

-- Martin Rubin

SATURDAY DOUBLE-BILL DISCOUNT! Buy a ticket at our regular prices for the first Becker film on any Saturday in January, and get a ticket for the second Becker film that day at the discounted rate with proof of your original purchase: General Admission $7; Students $5; Members $4. (This discount rate applies to the second feature only. Discount available in person at the box office only.)

PREVIOUSLY

It Happened at the Inn

Goupi mains rouges

1943, Jacques Becker, France, 104 min.

Showtimes:

  • Fri, Jan 4th 4:15pm
  • Tue, Jan 8th 6:00pm

Rendezvous in July

Rendez-vous en juillet

1949, Jacques Becker, France, 99 min.

Showtimes:

  • Sat, Jan 5th 3:00pm
  • Thu, Jan 10th 6:00pm

Touchez pas au grisbi

Hands Off the Loot!

1953, Jacques Becker, France, 94 min.

Showtimes:

  • Sat, Jan 5th 5:00pm
  • Wed, Jan 9th 6:00pm

Édouard and Caroline

Édouard et Caroline

1952, Jacques Becker, France, 92 min.

Showtimes:

  • Fri, Jan 11th 4:15pm
  • Sat, Jan 12th 5:15pm
  • Thu, Jan 17th 6:00pm

The Lovers of Montparnasse

Les amants de Montparnasse

1958, Jacques Becker, France, 108 min.

Showtimes:

  • Sat, Jan 12th 3:00pm

Rue de l'Estrapade

1953, Jacques Becker, France, 100 min.

Showtimes:

  • Tue, Jan 15th 6:00pm

Antoine and Antoinette

Antoine et Antoinette

1947, Jacques Becker, France, 84 min.

Showtimes:

  • Fri, Jan 18th 4:15pm
  • Sat, Jan 19th 5:30pm
  • Tue, Jan 22nd 6:00pm

Le trou

1960, Jacques Becker, France, 131 min.

Showtimes:

  • Sat, Jan 19th 3:00pm
  • Thu, Jan 24th 6:00pm

Casque d'or

1952, Jacques Becker, France, 94 min.

Showtimes:

  • Sat, Jan 26th 3:00pm
  • Thu, Jan 31st 6:00pm

Falbalas

1945, Jacques Becker, France, 107 min.

Showtimes:

  • Sat, Jan 26th 5:00pm
  • Sat, Feb 2nd 12:00pm