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

05 May 2018

La Vie devant Soi

La Vie devant Soi might be my favorite movie of 1978. That's kind of a difficult claim to make 40 years later, so I'm having trouble committing, but this film is gorgeous. I absolutely loved it. The movie stars (the incomparable) Simone Signoret as Madame Rosa, an aged prostitute and survivor of the Shoah who now takes care of prostitutes' children during the week so that they can work.

The movie, like all Moshé Mizrahi movies, is actually, however, about a young boy coming of age. One of the kids that Madame Rosa has taken in is a boy whose parents were Muslim, and his parents never come back for him, so he and Madame Rosa stick it out together as she grows old and infirm and he becomes a young teenager.

This is easily Mizrahi's best film, and this one manages to cover so many intriguing topics and describe so many fascinating characters. I found it beautiful and very moving even if I have become impatient with Mizrahi's greater interest in young men coming of age than the women in those boys' lives. (The women in his films always seem more interesting to me, but Mizrahi's movies are less interested in them.)

As for Simone Signoret (1921-1985), La Vie devant Soi is a crowning achievement in a long and superb career.

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