Antoine Et Antoinette
The first two entries in Jacques Becker's "loving couples" trilogy, all set against the postwar backdrop of his beloved Paris, Antoine Et Antoinette (1947) and Rendez-vous De Juillet (1949) are both delightful, ebullient romantic comedies with subtle social underpinnings. Becker was Jean Renoir's assistant director on 1932's Boudu Saved From Drowning and 1937's Grand Illusion, among others, and the way he uses simple, humane stories to illuminate larger issues of gender and class reflects the master's unmistakable influence. When a young, working-class couple (Roger Pigaut and Claire Mafféi) lose a winning lottery ticket in Antoine Et Antoinette, their disappointment causes Pigaut to question his wife's contentment with him and their humble life together. Becker uses the missing ticket as merely a jumping-off point in his keen, deceptively airy examination of how social status infects human relationships. In Rendez-vous De Juillet, he displays a more varied and colorful palette, particularly in his vivid depiction of the theater and jazz scene on the Left Bank. This ambitious, multi-character roundelay revolves around Daniel Gélin, a young man who brazenly defies his parents' wishes by trying to raise money to shoot an anthropological film in Africa. When it comes time to recruit his friends as his production crew, he finds their loyalty and political beliefs waning. Once again, what plays out like a sunny, lightweight relationship movie is deepened by the more serious underlying conflict between youthful idealism and practical responsibility. The "loving couples" are the subjects of Antoine Et Antoinette and Rendez-vous De Juillet, but they're only part of a much richer glimpse at life in postwar Paris.