Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

25 May 2015

Jacques Becker's Last Film

Le Trou is gorgeous. It's so weird because I love gangster and other crime films from this period – the films of Melville, Becker, Clément, Clouzot – but I really hate how the bad guys (by which I mean the good guys, the main characters of the film, whom we love and want to succeed) never get away with the crimes they wish to commit. Crime never pays in these movies. It's hearbtreaking.

Becker's film has a million things going for it, and like all of the movies in this genre, the movies doesn't particularly moralize at the end; it just refuses to let them get away with their scheme.

Le Trou is fundamentally a prison film, and because it is 1960 it is a prison film not about the abuses that occur in prisons but about the action of escaping the prison. There is one little very clear homo-moment. A character named Monseigneur is in the infirmary stealing some glass bottles, and there's another guy in there getting a shot for some venereal disease.
Monseigneur tells the guy: No women; that's the way to stay clean.
The guy replies: To each his own.
To which Monseigneur responds: No men either.
It's a funny little moment, intended only for color. I obviously found it delightful. The film itself is in love with Pierre Leroy's chest, as well, and he spends half the movie without a shirt. I found that, in particular, quite surprising.

As a film, this is one of Becker's best. It's beautifully shot and really explores the morality of friendship, duty to one's fellow man, and (especially) the time involved in breaking out of prison. Le Trou dwells in this, and it is both excruciating and fascinating. I loved this movie.