Quote of the Day: Frere Jacques

“Like Moliere, Jacques Becker died on a strange and terrible battlefield: that of artisitic creation. It was the moment when Caroline bites her finger till she draws blood because she has left Edouard, when Golden Marie (Cristobal’s Gold, or course) forces back her tears as Manda climbs the scaffold. It was Saturday evening. The studio phoned to say that the mixing of LE TROU was finally complete. Our btoher Jacques breathed again. Mortally wounded for so long, he could now give up the struggle without dishonour. And a few minutes later, Jacques Becker was no longer alive. It was Sunday morning, the hour when Max plays his favourite record, when Lupin meets the Princess at Maxim’s when day finally dawns over 7 rue de l’Estrapade.

“There are several good ways of making French films. Italian style, like Renoir. Viennese, like Ophuls. New Yorker, like Melville. But only Becker was and is French as France, French as Fontenelle’s rose and Bonnot’s gang. I happened to meet him during the sound mixing of LE TROU. Already ill, he was more handsome than ever. He talked about Les Trois Mousquetaires and suddenly I understood. That dark moustache, than grey hair … he was D’Artagnan in Twenty Years After. And he was Lupin too. Just compare a photograph of Becker seated behind the wheel of his Mercedes with the opening shot of LES AVENTURES DE ARSENE LUPIN and you will see that Robert Lamoureux was his spitting image.

Slightly singed.

“So Jacques Lupin, alias Artagnan Becker, is dead. Let us pretend to be moved, for we know from LE TESTAMENT D’ORPHEE that poets only pretend to die.”

~ Jean-Luc Godard, Cahiers du Cinema 106, April 1960. Quoted in Godard on Godard, translated and edited by Tom Milne.

[Includes references to Becker’s EDOUARD ET CAROLINE (1951), L’OR DU CRISTOBAL (1940), CASQUE D’OR (1952), TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI (1954), LES AVENTURES D’ARSENE LUPIN (1957), RUE DE L’ESTRAPADE (1953). Becker was planning a film of Dumas’ The Three Musketeers.]

Surprisingly emotional stuff from Godard, I thought. And a reminder that I need to take a look at some of the Becker films lurking in my collection. I saw TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI back in the ’80s, I think, but don’t remember a thing. But I love that feeling of watching a long-forgotten movie and feeling it all come back.

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