Édouard and Caroline
(Édouard et Caroline)

Directed by Jacques Becker.
With Daniel Gélin, Anne Vernon, Elina Labourdette .
France, 1951, DCP, black & white, 88 min.
French with English subtitles.
DCP source: Rialto Pictures

Over the course of a single night, a young couple’s marriage and future is set into increasing uncertainty by a highly charged event: an evening concert about to be given by Édouard, a gifted but still unknown pianist, in the gilded home of Caroline’s aristocratic uncle before a select audience of wealthy and influential potential supporters. In response to the unspoken but overwhelming stress placed upon the performance, comic moments tumble into a sharp-edged duel that exposes the potentially irreconcilable differences rooted in the couple’s distinct backgrounds and worldviews. Designer clothing once again plays a crucial role—in this case an evening gown—and the different opinions about presentability and class that it releases. Daniel Gélin, in the first of three films for Becker, is the slightly gruff musician while the spirited Caroline is played with screwball verve and deep emotion by the talented Anne Vernon, most recognizable to US audiences as Catherine Deneuve’s mother from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Completed on a relatively short production schedule in a burst of combined creative energies, Édouard and Caroline was inspired by Becker’s own relationship with Annette Wademant, a twenty-year-old aspiring actress for whom Becker recently had left his wife and with whom he wrote the film’s energetic and insightful screenplay. (Wademant would continue as screenwriter on Becker’s next film Rue de L’Estrapade before going on to work with Max Ophuls.) Édouard and Caroline was shot entirely on two Ballencourt sound stages transformed into contrasting worlds that embody the social polarities explored by Becker: the cramped and threadbare couple’s studio and the palatial apartments of Caroline’s aristocratic extended family. Becker makes dynamic use of the studio sets by turning one wall into an unseen mirror, allowing the couple to stare directly at the viewer as they examine themselves.

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Rediscovering Jacques Becker