It Happened at the Inn
(Goupi Mains Rouges)
With Fernand Ledoux, Blanchette Brunoy, Geroges Rollin .
France, 1943, 35mm, black & white, 100 min.
French with English subtitles.
Print source: Institut Français
Whether the comical nicknames of the rural Goupi clan signify cartoon archetypes or are a clue to the film’s hidden-in-plain-sight politics or both, Becker’s second feature successfully skirted censorship during Occupied France with its ambiguous depiction of a “return to the land.” When the prodigal “Monsieur” arrives from the city, he is welcomed by a cruel practical joke, an arranged marriage, a double murder mystery and a legend of buried treasure. Perhaps Becker’s tactics are as secretive and comically puzzling as the rustic Goupi family, whose tight bonds are laced with greed, violence, madness and treachery. Evading any easy reading, the film switches from expressionistic horror to romantic pastoral interludes to rambunctious comedy while maintaining a compelling suspense throughout. Perhaps it is this complicated, satirical ambidexterity that gave birth to such a captivatingly eccentric entry in his oeuvre and in the history of French cinema.