Antoine and Antoinette
(Antoine et Antoinette)

Directed by Jacques Becker.
With Roger Pigaut, Claire Mafféi, Noël Roquevert .
France, 1947, DCP, black & white, 84 min.
French with English subtitles.
DCP source: Rialto Pictures

Becker opens his celebrated quartet with a disarmingly frank yet tender story of a young couple—a factory laborer and department store clerk— buffeted by the daily bustle and struggles of urban life and, it seems, still learning to live with each other. The film marvelously captures the mercurial turns—from affection to petty squabbling to jealous rage to passionate lovemaking—regularly enacted within the couple’s crowded garret apartment. Together, Antoine and Antoinette embody contradictory approaches to human relationships explored across Becker’s cinema, with the forgiving and wide-eyed Antoinette counterbalanced by the petulant, distrusting Antoine, whose ceaseless jealousy correctly hones in on the lecherous grocer who has clear designs upon his comely wife. While unfolding turbulent and telling scenes from a still-early marriage, Antoine and Antoinettealso offers an affectionate portrait of the working-class Parisian neighborhood where the two form an integral part of a close community. Indeed, Becker is clearly fascinated by the film’s distinctly local setting and carefully stages all principal action in the quotidian spaces of the couple’s cramped rooftop and the nearby corner bistro, metro station and grocery store. Offsetting the film’s captivating realism is a touch of magical anarchy reminiscent of Rene Clair and set into heartwarming tragi-comedic motion by the appearance (and disappearance) of a winning lottery ticket.

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Rediscovering Jacques Becker