Biography of Jacques Becker (1906-1960)

Director and writer of French cinema born on September 15, 1906 in Paris and died on February 21, 1960 in the same city.


The creative path of Jacques Becker perfectly exemplifies a successful visual synthesis of influences film and literary, among which were the poetic realism of René Clair, Jean RenoirImpressionism, historicist decadent romanticism of Max Ophüls, the expressive simplicity of Robert Bresson and the underworld universe described by novelists like Georges Simenon. That mixture resulted in a very homogeneous work and staff, but also to some extent counter-current of trade trends in the film industry. But the real uniqueness of this creator is certainly in that few Directors have never been so close in expressing, through stories sometimes sordid and themed in marginal universes, feelings poetry and the utopian pursuit of ideals such as solidarity or love.

Raised in a bourgeois atmosphere of Parisian high society, the youth rebellion of Becker led him however to give up musical studies at the prestigious Schola Cantorum to devote himself to painting and founding an orchestra of amateurs who played in cabarets and other popular shows rooms. Family dislike was reinforced even more when in 1932 he/she decided to enter the unstable and somewhat casquivano world of cinema as Assistant Director of Jean Renoir. However, acquired beside this genius (through joint work on titles such as Boudu saved from the waters, a field day or the great illusion, among others), technical knowledge and poetic sensitivity were fundamental in the future life of Becker and, surprisingly, also found reflection in his subsequent films as a director.

After co-direct with Pierre Prèvert a medium of low diffusion, Le commisaire est bon enfant et le gendarme est sans Pitié (1935), the first opportunity to sit behind the scenes as sole director ended up being a stormy experience lousy end: l'Or du Cristobal, although did not ever end up strong disagreements with the producer. Shortly after this fact, also suffered in their flesh even more painful circumstances: his detention in a prison during World War II to work with the French resistance against the nazi invasion led by Adolf Hitler.

After the contest, Becker could debut smoothly on the ground of the film with the film of police intrigue Dernier atout (1942). But it was his next film, Goupi mains rouges (1943), which definitively established his career. The success of this film was built on a very common game of contrasts in the creative work of the filmmaker, and that for the occasion was a violent police intrigue who passed in the bucolic setting of the French countryside. Escaped luck (1946) closed on the other hand this preliminary stage of his career until he/she began to include new elements to this mixture as local customs and poetry.

Paris, underworld (1952) noted in this regard a culminating point in the work of Becker. Bohemian sordid and at the same time the French capital environments found reflection in the images of a romantic film with sharp analytical precision on the other side of a world that individuals of class women (most, in short, of the population) refuse to see. Rue de L'estrapade (1953) and Touchez pas au grisbi (1954) is also framed within this line, but its success was much lower than expected, perhaps because of the repeated formula. That Becker had to accept a series of assignments as a result "of subsistence" directed with a certain air of routine: Alí Babá and the forty thieves (1954) or the adventures of Arsenio Lupín (1956) was joined at this time.

His two recent feature films noted, in this regard, an absolute distillation of all its aesthetic postulates and two undisputed masterpieces of European cinema. If Montparnasse 19 (1957) was a self-confessed homage to Max Ophüls through the story of the last years of the life of the painter Amadeo Modigliani, evasion (1959) was inspired by another real event (the escape from a maximum security prison) to pay admiration to Robert Bresson.

His early death cut short a career with proper and consistent seal to the maximum with the idea that as individuals, we live in a false unhealthy society that can only be redeemed by the beauty of our actions. In any case, his cinema continues to maintain a singular force through a long series of modern followers, as his own son Jean Becker or the always controversial Leos Carax.


As director:

Short and medium-length films:

1935: Le commisaire est bon enfant et le gendarme est sans Pitié (Co-Director); Tete de turc. 1938: Communist party Congress.

Feature films:

1939: L'Or du Cristobal (unfinished). 1942: Dernier atout. 1943: Goupi red hands. 1944: Falbalas. 1946: the lucky escaped. 1948: Rendez-vous de juillet. 1951: Édouard et Caroline. 1952: Paris, Underworld. 1953: Rue de L'estrapade. 1954: Touchez pas au grisbi; Alí Babá and the forty thieves. 1956: The adventures of Arsenio Lupín. 1957: Montparnasse 19. 1959: Evasion.

As screenwriter:

1936: La vie est à nous.

As an Assistant of direction:

1932: Night at the crossroads; Boudu saved from the waters (and actor); Chotard et Cie. (and actor). 1933: Madame Bovary. 1936: The lower depths (and actor); C'est nous (and actor) Fri. 1937: the great illusion (and actor); La Marseillaise.