Rue de l'Estrapade

Screening on Film
Directed by Jacques Becker.
With Daniel Gélin, Louis Jourdan, Anne Vernon.
France, 1953, 35mm, black & white, 98 min.
French with English subtitles.
Print source: Institut Français

The threat of adultery hovering over Becker’s “Quartet of Young Love” rears its full head in the final and least known entry of the series, a droll study of matrimonial dysfunction gamely played by Anne Vernon as a vain housewife and Louis Jourdan, between Hollywood pictures, as a rakish and philandering racecar driver. The film’s unexpected opening image finds the couple slovenly devouring their lunch in a kind of a speed competition, a comic yet cutting summary of their descent into bad manners and mutual indifference. Rue de L’Estrapade extends the tendency of Becker’s cinema to burrow into seemingly trivial incidents by making constant sidetracks to follow secondary characters and linger after the expected end of a scene. Notable here are the extended scenes with Rififi’s Jean Servais as an openly gay couturier still compelled to aggressively flirt with Vernon in response to her overzealous entreaties for work in his exclusive boutique. Written by Édouard et Caroline actress turned screenwriter Annette Wademant, Rue de L’Estrapade shares with that film an acerbic undertone and critique of delusional bourgeois aspirations. In Rue de L’Estrapade the target, more specifically, is the easy appropriation of bohemianism by the middle-class, a gesture embodied by Vernon’s shallow attempt to reinvent herself by moving to a garret apartment beside a moody and self-absorbed chanteur played with comic inflection by Daniel Gélin. 

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