Rendezvous in August: Discovering Jacques Becker

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Jacques Becker

As snappy as its title, Becker's crackling crime classic has been called "the greatest film noir (next only to Renoir's Nuit du carrefour, on which Becker had been an assistant)" (Bernard Eisenschitz). The tale is familiar — a falling-out amongst thieves after a heist — but Becker makes everything fresh and moving with his insights into aging and friendship. Heading up a superb ensemble — which includes Jean-Pierre Melville regular Lino Ventura in his first screen role, and Jeanne Moreau (who also receives a TIFF Cinematheque retrospective this season) as a duplicitous, coke-snorting moll — Jean Gabin is indelibly moving as a gangster who is past his prime, and Becker puts much emphasis on the aged crook's high style (crisply laundered pyjamas, foie gras and white wine for a late-night snack). "One of the great movies about male friendship ... Its final scene offers one of the greatest, most bitterly poignant touches of face-saving deception in the history of cinema" (Richard Brody, The New Yorker).

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