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Friday, August 10

Directed by Jacques Becker

(1947) Pauvre mais beau, but c’est la vie for struggling pulp publishing house worker Roger Pigaut and his wife, the radiant Claire Mafféi, a department store photo booth operator, who runs a veritable book club with the rejects her husband brings home, as he dreams of a motorcycle and rope dances along the edge of their rooftop, with time out for l’amour avant le dîner. A real slice of life, where neighbors casually pop in through garret windows, Pigaut lines his shoes with newspaper cut-outs, insinuating greengrocer Noël Roquevert saves the best leeks for Mafféi, who sometimes blows a sou or two on a silly lottery ticket…but what if they won the big one? What if they lost the ticket? What if…? A triumph of the unsung Becker’s cinema style: discreetly moving cinema, cuts on movement and action, and a steady if relentless pace that gave Becker a gift for pure narrative. The only film to ever be awarded the Cannes Film Festival Prix du meilleur film psychologique et d’amour—Best Psychological and Love Film! DCP. Approx. 84 min.


“A swift, spontaneous depiction of la vie quotidienne, full of lovely Paris locations involving a myriad of subtly introduced and interwoven subsidiary characters. A film of great charm, zest and atmosphere, admirably served by its players and accompanied by Jean-Jacques Grünenwald’s beguiling score.”
– John Gillet, BFI

“There’s a telling urban-fairy-tale-like quality to the main plot—it involves a lottery ticket and it suggests, with a bitter irony, the lack of social mobility and the vanity of ordinary dreams at a time of constrained inequality... Becker depicts the couple warmly and tenderly, and frankly displays their hearty and vigorous eroticism (not least, in closeups of a frank, tactile ardor).”
– Richard Brody, The New Yorker

“The film walks an evocative line between realism and fantasy, capturing the energetic effervescence of the City of Light and showing how it complements the unbreakable bond between our impassioned heroes.”
– Keith Uhlich, Time Out (New York)

“A playful and tender working-class romance… Becker establishes frustrating and dehumanizing exchanges as part of the everyday texture of existence for this modest couple, and for much of the film, we could be forgiven for thinking the movie will merely be a directionless slice of life. Only towards the end do all these elements suddenly snap into sharper focus… Suddenly, the humdrum details Becker has been presenting to us — from the discarded books to the lecherous storekeepers to the busybody neighbors to all the other basics of how our heroes navigate this bustling, working-class milieu — gain profound, interlocked significance.”
– Bilge Ebiri, The Village Voice

Film Forum