Jacques Becker was a French film director who worked during the mid-twentieth century, known for his distinct style and masterful storytelling.
He began his career as an assistant director to Jean Renoir and later went on to direct his own films, which have since become celebrated classics in French cinema.
Becker’s films often focus on the lives of ordinary people, exploring themes of love, loyalty, and the struggle to make a living.
His work is characterized by a realistic, understated approach to storytelling, and he often employed non-professional actors to achieve a sense of authenticity in his films.
Best Jacques Becker Films
In this article, we will explore some of the best Jacques Becker films, which have left an indelible mark on the history of French cinema.
1. Le trou (1960)
“Le trou” is a 1960 French film directed by Jacques Becker. It is based on the novel “The Break” by José Giovanni and tells the story of five prisoners in a French prison who hatch a plan to escape.
One of the key themes of the film is the idea of camaraderie and the bond that can form between people in difficult circumstances.
The prisoners work together and rely on each other’s skills and strengths to carry out their escape plan, and the film explores the development of their relationships over the course of the story.
The film also examines the harsh realities of prison life and the impact it can have on individuals. It depicts the dehumanizing conditions of the prison and the toll it takes on the prisoners’ physical and mental health.
The film also shows the consequences of the prisoners’ actions and the risks they take to escape.
“Le trou” is a well-crafted film with strong performances by the cast.
The film’s direction is expertly done, creating a tense and suspenseful atmosphere as the prisoners carry out their escape plan.
The film’s realistic portrayal of prison life and the bond between the prisoners make it a powerful and memorable film that continues to be celebrated for its contributions to the prison escape genre.
2. Grisbi (1954)
“Touchez Pas au Grisbi” (also known as “Grisbi”) is a French crime drama film directed by Jacques Becker and released in 1954.
The film stars Jean Gabin as Max, an aging gangster who is looking to retire from the criminal underworld.
However, when his friend and partner-in-crime, Riton, loses a large sum of stolen money, Max is pulled back into the dangerous world of organized crime.
The film is known for its moody, atmospheric visuals and its subtle exploration of themes of loyalty, aging, and the cost of a life of crime.
The film’s sharp dialogue and complex characters have earned it a reputation as one of the finest examples of French film noir.
“Touchez Pas au Grisbi” was a critical and commercial success in France and helped to establish Jean Gabin as one of the country’s most popular actors.
The film has since become a classic of French cinema and a touchstone for filmmakers exploring the themes of crime and redemption.
3. Casque d’Or (1952)
“Casque d’Or” is a 1952 French romantic drama film directed by Jacques Becker, starring Simone Signoret, Serge Reggiani, and Claude Dauphin.
The film is set in Paris in the early 20th century and tells the story of a love triangle between a gangster named Manda (Reggiani), a carpenter named Leca (Dauphin), and a woman named Marie, nicknamed “Casque d’Or” (Signoret), who becomes the object of their affection.
The film is notable for its romanticism and poetic realism, as well as its exploration of themes of love, loyalty, and betrayal. It is also notable for its stunning visual style, which captures the mood and atmosphere of the Belle Époque era in which it is set.
Overall, “Casque d’Or” is a beautiful and emotionally resonant film that offers a compelling portrait of a bygone era and a tragic love story that transcends time.
It is recommended for fans of classic French cinema and those interested in exploring the intersection of romance and crime in film.
4. Edward and Caroline (1951)
“Edward and Caroline” is a 1951 French comedy directed by Jacques Becker and starring Daniel Gélin and Anne Vernon.
The film follows the ups and downs of a young couple, Edward and Caroline, on the day of their wedding, as they navigate various obstacles and conflicts.
One of the strengths of “Edward and Caroline” is its charming and lighthearted tone, which makes for an enjoyable and entertaining viewing experience.
The chemistry between Gélin and Vernon is also a highlight, as their characters’ banter and bickering provide much of the film’s humor and warmth.
In addition, the film offers an interesting look at French society and culture in the early 1950s, as it explores issues such as social class, gender roles, and the expectations placed on young couples.
Becker’s direction is skillful and stylish, and he manages to capture the beauty and energy of Paris in a way that is both romantic and realistic.
Overall, “Edward and Caroline” is a delightful and endearing film that offers a humorous and insightful look at the complexities of love and relationships.
It is a classic of French cinema and a must-see for fans of romantic comedies and European cinema.
5. Antoine and Antoinette (1947)
“Antoine and Antoinette” (1947) is a French romantic comedy directed by Jacques Becker. The film follows a young working-class couple, Antoine and Antoinette, as they struggle to make ends meet in post-war Paris.
When Antoinette wins the lottery, they dream of a better life, but their plans are soon complicated by a series of mishaps and misunderstandings.
The film is notable for its realistic portrayal of working-class life in post-war France and its emphasis on the struggles and dreams of ordinary people.
It features charming performances by the lead actors, Roger Pigaut and Claire Mafféi, who bring a warmth and humanity to their respective roles.
At its core, “Antoine and Antoinette” is a film about love, hope, and the struggles of everyday life.
It offers a heartfelt and humorous look at the challenges faced by working-class couples in post-war Paris, and the ways in which they find joy and meaning amidst the struggles of daily life.
For fans of classic French cinema, romantic comedies, and realistic portrayals of working-class life, “Antoine and Antoinette” is a must-see film.
6. Rendezvous in July (1949)
“Rendezvous in July” is a 1949 French film directed by Jacques Becker. The film follows a group of young Parisians who are passionate about jazz music and dream of starting their own club.
Set against the backdrop of post-World War II Paris, the film captures the vibrant energy and optimism of the era as the characters navigate their personal lives and pursue their dreams.
“Rendezvous in July” is notable for its focus on the emerging jazz scene in Paris and features several prominent jazz musicians of the time.
The film has been praised for its realism, capturing the everyday struggles and aspirations of its characters, and for its dynamic and engaging storytelling.
Despite being relatively unknown outside of France, “Rendezvous in July” is considered a classic of French cinema and a must-see for fans of Jacques Becker’s work.
7. It Happened at the Inn (1943)
“It Happened at the Inn” is a 1943 French comedy film directed by Jacques Becker.
The film is set in a small rural town in France during the early 20th century and follows the events that unfold at a local inn, where a group of travelers and the innkeepers find themselves caught up in a series of comical mishaps and misunderstandings.
One of the key themes of the film is the idea of community and the relationships that form between people in a small town.
The film explores the dynamics of the relationships between the various characters, including the innkeepers, their daughter, the local doctor, and the various travelers who pass through the town.
The film also touches on broader themes of social and political change, as the events of the story are set against the backdrop of World War I and the social and economic changes that were taking place in France at the time.
“It Happened at the Inn” is a charming and light-hearted film that showcases Becker’s skill as a director and his ability to craft engaging stories with memorable characters.
The film’s humor and warmth make it a beloved classic of French cinema that continues to be celebrated for its contributions to the comedy genre.
8. Montparnasse 19 (1958)
“Montparnasse 19” (also known as “Modigliani of Montparnasse”) is a French-Italian biographical film directed by Jacques Becker and released in 1958.
The film tells the story of the final years of the life of the Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani (played by Gérard Philipe) as he struggles to find success and recognition in the vibrant artistic community of Montparnasse in 1919 Paris.
The film explores themes of creativity, self-destructiveness, and the price of artistic success.
It features an ensemble cast of characters, including Modigliani’s lover, Jeanne Hébuterne (played by Anouk Aimée), his friend and fellow artist, Chaim Soutine (played by Lino Ventura), and a wealthy American art collector, Léopold Zborowski (played by Lila Kedrova).
“Montparnasse 19” was not a commercial success upon its release, but it has since been recognized as a classic of French cinema and a masterpiece of the biographical film genre.
The film’s sensitive and nuanced portrayal of Modigliani’s life and work, and its evocative recreation of the artistic community of Montparnasse, have earned it a place in the canon of great films about art and artists.
9. Paris Frills (1945)
“Paris Frills” (Les Enfants du Paradis) is a 1945 French drama film directed by Marcel Carné and written by Jacques Prévert.
The film is set in the Parisian theatre district in the mid-19th century and follows the lives of a group of performers, including the courtesan Garance (Arletty), the mime Baptiste (Jean-Louis Barrault), the actor Frédérick (Pierre Brasseur), and the criminal Lacenaire (Marcel Herrand).
The film is notable for its epic scope and intricate plotting, as well as its exploration of themes of love, jealousy, and passion.
It is also notable for its stunning visual style, which captures the bustling streets of Paris and the lavish costumes and sets of the theatre world.
Overall, “Paris Frills” is a masterful and emotionally rich film that offers a powerful exploration of human relationships and the power of the performing arts. It is recommended for fans of classic French cinema and those interested in exploring the intersection of love and art in film.
10. Françoise Steps Out (1953)
“Françoise Steps Out” (original title: “Madame de …, s’en va-t-en guerre”) is a 1953 French comedy-drama film directed by Jean-Paul Le Chanois and starring Danielle Darrieux, Charles Boyer, and Vittorio De Sica.
The film tells the story of Françoise, a woman who feels trapped in her marriage and decides to leave her husband to find her own independence.
One of the strengths of the film is its strong performances, particularly from Darrieux, who is captivating as Françoise.
The film also features beautiful cinematography and elegant costume design, which add to its overall charm and appeal.
Another strength of the film is its exploration of the theme of female empowerment and independence, which was relatively rare in films of the era.
Françoise’s decision to leave her husband and strike out on her own was a bold and unconventional choice, and the film offers a thoughtful and nuanced examination of the challenges and opportunities that come with such a decision.
Overall, “Françoise Steps Out” is a compelling and entertaining film that explores important themes and features strong performances and beautiful cinematography. It is a classic of French cinema and a must-see for fans of romantic dramas and character-driven storytelling.
11. Dernier Atout (1942)
“Dernier Atout” (1942) is a French crime comedy directed by Jacques Becker and starring Fernandel, a popular French comedian known for his comic timing and expressive face.
The film is set in a small town in the south of France, where Fernandel plays the role of the bumbling detective Inspector Wens, who is tasked with solving a series of mysterious crimes.
The film is notable for its witty dialogue, clever plot twists, and the comedic performance of Fernandel. It also features a strong supporting cast, including Suzy Delair and Jules Berry, who bring their own comedic talents to the film.
At its core, “Dernier Atout” is a film about the power of wit and intelligence over brute force and aggression.
Inspector Wens uses his quick thinking and cunning to solve the crimes, even when he is outmatched physically by his adversaries. The film is a lighthearted and entertaining romp, full of humor and charm, and is a must-see for fans of classic French cinema and crime comedies.
3 Characteristics of Jacques Becker Films
Jacques Becker was a filmmaker with a distinctive style and approach to storytelling. Here are three characteristics that are commonly found in his films:
Realism and Attention to Detail: Becker’s films often depict the everyday lives of ordinary people, and he was known for his attention to detail in capturing the small moments and nuances of his characters’ experiences. He often used non-professional actors to add to the realism of his films.
Understated and Nuanced Storytelling: Becker’s films were characterized by a subtle and understated approach to storytelling. He was skilled at portraying complex emotions and relationships without resorting to melodrama or heavy-handedness.
Focus on Camaraderie and Loyalty: Many of Becker’s films explore themes of friendship, loyalty, and camaraderie among groups of people.
His characters often find strength and support in their relationships with others, and these relationships are depicted with a sense of warmth and humanity.
3 Reasons Why You Should Watch Jacques Becker Films
Jacques Becker was a French filmmaker known for his contributions to the French New Wave movement. Here are three reasons why you should watch his films:
Becker’s films showcase a unique blend of realism and poeticism. He often explored themes of everyday life and relationships with a keen eye for detail and nuance.
His films are characterized by a sense of authenticity and emotional depth, which make them compelling and relatable to audiences.
Becker was a master of genre filmmaking. He worked across a range of genres, from crime dramas to romantic comedies, and brought his own distinctive style and sensibility to each. His films are notable for their visual flair, clever plotting, and dynamic characters.
Becker’s films have had a lasting influence on French cinema and beyond. His work helped pave the way for the French New Wave, which would go on to become one of the most important film movements of the 20th century.
Many contemporary filmmakers continue to be inspired by his work and his contributions to the world of cinema are still celebrated today.
Overall, Jacques Becker was a visionary filmmaker whose work continues to captivate and inspire audiences around the world.
Whether you are a fan of French cinema or simply enjoy compelling storytelling and dynamic characters, his films are well worth a watch.
Best Jacques Becker Films – Wrapping Up
Jacques Becker was a French filmmaker who left a significant mark on French cinema through his distinct style and approach to filmmaking. Some of his best films include:
“Le Trou” (1960) – A gripping and intense prison drama based on a true story.
“Casque d’Or” (1952) – A classic romantic tragedy set in Belle Époque Paris.
“Touchez Pas au Grisbi” (1954) – A moody and atmospheric crime drama featuring the legendary Jean Gabin.
“Le Trou Normand” (1952) – A charming and witty comedy about a Normandy town and its residents.
“Antoine and Antoinette” (1947) – A delightful and whimsical romantic comedy that captures the post-war spirit of optimism and hope.
While Jacques Becker’s filmography is relatively small, each of his films is considered a masterpiece in its own right. His films are known for their careful attention to detail, nuanced characters, and sensitivity to human relationships. Jacques Becker’s contributions to French cinema will continue to be celebrated and studied for years to come.