Dernier atout
(The Trump Card)

Screening on Film
Directed by Jacques Becker.
With Mireille Balin, Raymond Rouleau, Pierre Renoir .
France, 1942, 35mm, black & white, 105 min.
French with English subtitles.
Print source: StudioCanal

Becker’s first film is a stylish gangster fantasy set in a fictional Latin American country and centered on the rivalry between two aspiring detectives—recent graduates from the police academy—locked in a fierce competition to solve the headline murder of a notorious American gangster in the prominent resort hotel Babylonia. Some have read in Becker’s debut feature the traces of his close study of Hollywood cinema, especially the celebrated cycles of gangster films and screwball comedies that were among the studios’ more popular international exports. Others have found in Dernier atout’s moody scenes and brooding characters the seeds of his later crime and prison dramas, Touchez pas au grisbi and Le Trou. Although clearly escapist fare, Dernier atout nevertheless effectively captures the paranoia, frustration and omnipresent threat of violence that held nerves and lives in suspense throughout the war years.

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Rediscovering Jacques Becker