Antoine & Antoinette (1947)


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Antoine & Antoinette Movie Reviews

Antoine meet Antonette.

Gathering up a number of DVDs to give to a friend as an Easter present,I decided to search around for any interesting sounding French Drama’s.Taking a look at a DVD sellers page,I was delighted to stumble upon a French Comedy Drama which had a number of enticing IMDb reviews,which led to me happily getting ready to meet Antoine and Antoinette for the first time.

View on the film:

Made at a time when a sense of optimism was sweeping across France thanks to the end of WWII,co-writer/ (along with Maurice Griffe and Francoise Giroud) director Jacques Becker expertly reflects the mood with fluid camera moves which reveal the ‘bright future’ atmosphere that all of the characters have.

Becker shows the streets to be packed with closed-knitted communities going about their daily routine,and also that there is a new influx of money on the horizon,which give working class people such as Antoine and Antoinette a firm belief that a jackpot is within their grasp.

For the brilliant screenplay of the film,the writers keep away from turning the movie into something sickly sweet by using the impact that women had in the work forces of WWII as a smart way to show the changing dynamics of the ‘traditional’ relationship,thanks to Antoine and Antoinette both being shown to be their own bosses at the work place,and the writers also showing Antoinette to be much more focused on solving the issues related to the lottery ticket,than the far weaker Antoine is.

Along with taking a close look at the title character’s relationship,the writer’s also put a golden ticket at the centre of the film,which along with showing the wealth that was entering people’s lives also gives the writers the chance to include a number of tantalising fights for money,with Becker giving the movie a surprisingly hard-nose in a brutal final fight,which inadvertently leads to the lottery trouble being solved in a wonderful twist.

Playing what appears to be a newly married couple,Roger Pigaut and the pretty Claire Maffei both give excellent performances,with both actors each bringing something to the relationship.Maffei gives Antoinette a strong masculine side as she finds herself having to support her stressed-out husband,whilst Pigaut only expresses his masculine side in short rough’n’ tumble bursts,as Pigaut shows Antoine to be clutching at straws over solving the troubles of the winning ticket,as Antoinette and Antoine reveal themselves to be a winning couple.

hats off to Becker’s adroit story-telling felicity and his profound compassion towards the have-nots

The protagonists of Jacques Becker’s Paris working-glass comedy is a young couple, the titular Antoine (Pigaut) and Antoinette (Mafféi), he works in a printing press and she in a department store, they don’t have much savings and live in a frowzy apartment, but an exuberant sense of community permeates through their ordinary lives, and it is books marred by printing errors, which are given to Antoine gratis by his honcho and then circulated by Antoinette within her circle of friends in the working place and neighbors, that oils the wheels of this affecting community, and Becker’s camera swirls and roves with great kinetic ease and facility in delineating this charming facet of quotidian breeziness.

A discordant note is added to the fold from Mr. Roland (a cross-eyed, importuning Roquevert), the proprietor of a local grocery store, who has a design on the comely Antoinette, and cunningly encroaches in front of their doorsteps on the pretense of repairing Antoine’s broken bicycle, and his salacious intrusion will in time culminate near the coda with fisticuffs, which is unexpectedly utilized as a coup-de-thêàtre to swiftly shunt the story to an auspicious denouement.

A windfall of nearly 1 million francs lottery win takes the center stage, but it is the lingering trepidation that things will go awry compels us, from Antoine’s witching-hour decision to conceal the lottery ticket inside a book, to an expedient retrieval in the morning after, until the hasting incident in front of the metro-ticket wicket, which ineluctably costs him his wallet with the ticket in it. When Antoine slumps into dismay, Antoinette, after receiving the tidings, doesn’t act accordingly with the same miserabilism, being a sharp-witted, courageous woman, Antoinette is able to come to terms with the bad news because essentially their life remains as buoyant as the day before they hit the jackpot, nothing changes (save for her job), what dissipates can be viewed as a dashed dream, she has nothing but tenderness toward her blundered husband, this kind of sobriety and rapport, a merit intimates that women are generally more inclined to pull themselves together than the opposite sex, has sustained the film’s undimmed appeal decades after.

However, Becker slyly wields his plot-thickening design to create consecutive surprises, the wallet is fortuitously returned, but the ticket is not the same one, a double whammy salted by Mr. Roland’s untimely obtrusion, only to yield a subconscious revelation from Antoine that looks strangely rushed and somewhat unreal, still, the two leading players are marvelous together, Claire Maffé exudes a particularly chipper combination of moxie and sensibility and Roger Pigaut possesses a boyish simplicity and petulance that registers favorable impressions. Finally, let’s hats off to Becker’s adroit story-telling felicity and his profound compassion towards the have-nots, to a filmmaker whose renown would soon be eclipsed by the progressive nouvelle vague alumni before his death in 1960 due to the hereditary hemochromatosis, aged only 53.

The ticket chase

“Antoine et Antoinette” is Jacques Becker’s fourth movie and it takes place in a working-class milieu ;”Goupi Mains Rouges” was a rural thriller and “Falbalas” took us to the chic world of models and fashion.

At first sight,”Antoine and Antoinette” could be looked upon as an update of René Clair’s “le Million” .But the latter has become -at least to these eyes- unbearable with its old-fashioned “songs” and its ludicrous -with the exception of the lovely Annabella- cast. “Antoine and Antoinette”,on the other hand,retains its pristine charm ,it’s very well acted ,and Becker’s camera is fluid ,his sympathy for his characters is glaring ,qualities which will emerge again in such works as “Rendez-vous de Juillet” and his towering achievement “Casque D’Or” .

The lottery ticket as a way out of poverty was also in Julien Duvivier’s classic “La Belle Equipe” ,but it was 1947 ,the baby boom time when people were optimistic in France .Roger Pigaut was one of the best romantic young leads of the era ,but he never became a big star ,which was unfair.As for his partner,Claire Mafféi ,she was virtually forgotten after Becker’s film.Noel Roquevert who made hundreds of films (he played a small part in “les Diaboliques”) is cast against type as a vicious middle age man,trying to sleep with Antoinette.

In his best works,Becker recreates a microcosm : the rural world of “Goupi” (it may be unrealistic,it works all the same),the enthusiastic bunch of students in “Rendez-vous de Juillet” ,the “Apaches” and their laws in “Casque d’Or” ,the prisoners in their cell in “le Trou”.Here he works wonders when it comes to depicting the life of these humble people,their seedy apartments ,their metro,the work they are proud of ,and most of all the class solidarity through the pleasure and the pain.