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French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF)
Presents Jacques Becker: Liberating Cinema
Jan 8–Feb 26

This winter, the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) presents a retrospective of the films of Jacques Becker (1906–1960), whose richly detailed worlds, indelible characters, and a humanist outlook elevated genre filmmaking to an art form. The series brings together Becker’s most celebrated films, lesser known gems, and newly restored versions. The series will run from January 8 to February 26 in FIAF’s Florence Gould Hall.

Called “the great revealer” by the esteemed auteur François Truffaut, Becker emerged as one of the most talented filmmakers in the post-World War II era, mastering the art of genre films like few directors have. Regardless of category, “his pictures always felt authoritative to the point of being definitive,” wrote Glenn Kenny in The New York Times.

Whether it is his superb period love story Casque d’Or (1952), his gripping prison escape Le Trou (1960), his screwball-like comedy Édouard et Caroline (1951), or gangster film Touchez pas au Grisbi (1954), Becker exhibits skillful attention to detail, character development, sense of story-telling, plot, and pace.
“Becker’s filmography is one the most accomplished in the history of French cinema and it’s no surprise that he has been compared to the likes of Howard Hawks and Preston Sturges, and lauded by fellow filmmakers including François Truffaut, Bertrand Tavernier, Jean-Pierre Melville, and Martin Scorsese,” said Delphine Selles-Alverez. “We are thrilled to be able to bring back these films, many in restored versions, following their successful run at Film Forum this past summer.”
A bridge between the silent era and the New Wave, Becker worked as Jean Renoir’s assistant on films including Boudu Saved from Drowning, A Day in the Country, and Grand Illusion. While serving in the French military during World War II, he was briefly taken as a German prisoner of war. Before the war’s end, he directed his first feature film, Last Trump (Dernier Atout), in 1942. This was followed closely by the film noir Goupi Mains Rouges (1943), and the wildly original Falbalas (1944) about a love triangle set in a fashion house, both of which will be screened as part of the series.

Becker’s Parisian youth trilogy—Antoine et Antoinette (1947), Rendezvous in July (1949), and Édouard et Caroline (1951)—authentically capture the energy and uncertainty of Post-War Paris. While later works such as Le Trou (1960) and his masterpiece, Touchez pas le Grisbi (1954), delve into crime-ridden underworlds, tackling themes such as loyalty and betrayal.
FIAF will screen restored versions of Casque d’Or, Le Trou, Rendezvous in July, Touchez pas le Grisbi, and Édouard et Caroline.
A chronological listing of the series events follows.

Casque d’Or
January 8 at 4pm & 7:30pm
Dir. Jacques Becker, 1952, 96 min. 35mm
With Simone Signoret, Serge Reggiani, Claude Dauphin
In French with English subtitles
Becker’s masterpiece is both one of the unforgettable romances of the screen and one of its greatest tragedies. Set among the street criminals and working girls of Belle Époque Paris, Casque d’or tells the love story between reformed criminal Georges Manda (Serge Reggiani) and prostitute Marie (played by an incandescent Simone Signoret). From love at first sight to the guillotine, from riverside dances to back-alley knife duels, Becker’s command of atmosphere, love of detailed characterization, and graceful camera style creates an extraordinary succession of set pieces that highlight this couple whose love defies the the odds

Rendezvous in July (Rendez-vous de juillet)
January 15 at 4pm & 7:30pm
Dir. Jacques Becker, 1949, 112 min. DCP
With Daniel Gélin, Brigitte Auber, Nicole Courcel
In French with English subtitles
This social comedy paints an irresistible portrait of the generation of Parisians that came of age in the postwar period, roaming dark Paris streets with a love of jazz and theater, dreams of adventure, and hearts waiting to be broken. Becker follows the divergent fortunes of two couples of young lovers, and in so doing provides a time capsule of a moment when young people crossed the Seine in decommissioned amphibious vehicles fueled by gas that was bartered for raw meat on the black market and danced to the sound of American musicians letting rip in Left Bank jazz cellars.

Le Trou
January 22 at 4pm & 7:30pm
Dir. Jacques Becker, 1960, 132 min, DCP
With Michel Constantin, Marc Michel
In French with English subtitles
In this prison-break caper four hardened cellmates about to carry out a long-planned escape must decide whether to trust the well-bred young convict newly assigned to their cell. Shot in Paris’s infamous La Santé prison, Le Trou is a grippingly authentic take on prison life, served by Becker’s rigorous eye for detail and unvarnished performances by a captivating group of non-professional actors including a participant in the real-life attempted escape that inspired the film. With this last film, Becker laces together a timeless meditation on camaraderie and betrayal with overpowering suspense.

Goupi mains rouges
January 29 at 4pm & 7:30pm
Dir. Jacques Becker, 1943, 104 min, 35mm
With Fernand Ledoux, Georges Rollin, Blanchette Brunoy
In French with English subtitles
The arrival of a young city slicker sets off a chain reaction of resentment, cupidity, theft, and murder within the eccentric Goupi clan of rural innkeepers and landowners. Shot during the German occupation of France, many critics have considered the shadowy atmosphere and elements as Becker’s somber response to a dark period in history. Goupi Mains Rouges, the reclusive uncle who ultimately upholds justice, serves as the film’s ethical center, both a reminder of the rural population’s essential decency and an example of Becker’s gift for balancing comedic characterization with moral complexity.

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (Ali Baba)
February 5 at 4pm & 7:30pm
Dir. Jacques Becker, 1954, 92 min, DCP
With Fernandel, Samia Gamal, Dieter Borsche
In French and Arabic with English subtitles
This outlier in Becker’s filmography finds legendary French comedian Fernandel leading a dazzling adaptation of the tale of Ali Baba, with eye-popping colors, belly-dancing numbers, and displaced Marseille accents of a largely Provençal cast. Known for his sophisticated Parisian comedies and atmospheric urban noirs, Becker’s turn to The Arabian Nights for inspiration with the constantly mugging Fernandel as its leading man was unexpected in the least, but the director embraced the challenge with brilliance, exquisitely choreographing an explosion of color and movement.
View more film info here.

February 12 at 4pm & 7:30pm
Dir. Jacques Becker, 1945, 111 min, DCP
With Raymond Rouleau, Micheline Presle, Jean Chevrier
In French with English subtitles
Celebrated Paris fashion designer Philippe Clarence lives in a world of women, surrounded by his female collaborators, models, and clients. He is also a shameless Don Juan, cataloguing his mistresses’ dresses like collection pieces in a museum. Yet the abrupt end of a short affair with Micheline, his best friend’s fiancée, drives the once carefree charmer to the edge of madness. In this stylish melodrama—and precursor to Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread—Becker uses expressive camera movements and taut montage to contrast the glamor of haute couture and Parisian high society with the violent passions simmering beneath the surface.
View more film info here.

Édouard et Caroline
February 19 at 4pm
Dir. Jacques Becker, 1951, 88 min, DCP
With Daniel Gélin, Anne Vernon, Elina Labourdettet
In French with English subtitles
Becker returned to the subject of married life with this witty romantic comedy about Édouard, a talented but unknown pianist, and his patrician wife, Caroline. As Édouard eagerly prepares for a potentially career-launching piano recital at the penthouse of Caroline’s rich uncle, a missing waistcoat and a daringly altered dress threaten to put an end to their marital harmony. With rapid-fire dialogue, riotous misunderstandings, and an uproarious gallery of supporting characters, including a snobbish high-society uncle and a straight-talking American tycoon, Édouard and Caroline has the sheen and effortless momentum of golden-age Hollywood comedies.
View more film info here.

Antoine et Antoinette
February 19 at 7:30pm
Dir. Jacques Becker, 1947, 84 min, DCP
With Roger Pigaut, Claire Mafféi, Noël Roquevert
In French with English subtitles
In Becker’s zippiest, most stylish romantic comedy, the loss of a winning lottery ticket sends salesgirl Antoinette and her factory worker husband Antoine on a hunt through the streets of Paris, producing a vivid, lighthearted picture of working class life in the years following World War II. Full of the sights and sounds of a gentrifying city long where luxury boutiques and throngs of tourists replace its industrial past, Antoine and Antoinette is more than a time capsule, it is an entire world brought to life by one of France’s great humanist directors.
View more film info here.

Touchez pas au Grisbi
February 26 at 4pm & 7:30pm
Dir. Jacques Becker, 1954, 94 min, DCP
With Jean Gabin, Jeanne Moreau, Lino Ventura, René Dary
In French with English subtitles
Jean Gabin made a resounding comeback in 1954 with his world-weary but debonair performance as Max, an aging gangster whose retirement is foiled when his loose-lipped associate gets kidnapped by a ruthless mobster who wants Max’s loot from a last big heist. While Becker defined the atmospheric shimmer, existential complexity, and underlying tension of French film noir with this instant classic, Touchez pas le grisbi is also a deeply affecting study of aging and loyalty, in which Becker navigates Paris’s louche nightclubs and underworld haunts to create a universal picture of friendship tested and honored.
View more film info here.

About CinéSalon
In the spirit of the French ciné-clubs and literary salons, CinéSalon pairs engaging French films with social post-screening receptions. Screenings are held on Tuesdays at 4 pm and 7:30 pm in Florence Gould Hall for all of the films. Complementary wine and beer are served following each screening.
About FIAF
The French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) is New York’s premiere French cultural and language center. FIAF's mission is to create and offer New Yorkers innovative and unique programs in education and the arts that explore the evolving diversity and richness of French cultures. FIAF seeks to generate new ideas and promote cross cultural dialogue through partnerships and new platforms of expression.




© New York Cool 2004-2018




© New York Cool 2004-2014