Man Called Rocca (1961) Poster

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Becker jr/Giovanni .
dbdumonteil21 September 2003
In 1959,just before his death,Jacques Becker adapted for the screen,José Giovanni's "le trou" :the only Giovanni novel which gave a genuine masterpiece.So when the young Becker (Jean) emerged first as a Henri Verneuil and Julien Duvivier assistant,it was only natural that the "casque d'or" director's son teamed up with the novelist for his first effort.

This first effort is very undistinguished in its first part,but becomes better in the second half which takes place in a jail and then on a beach where the voluntary prisoners do mine clearance.The scenes in the prison were always convincing in Giovanni's screenplays ,because he 'd done time himself (see his 2000 movie "mon père ,il m'a sauvé la vie").It's an accurate depiction of a French prison circa 1960.Then the mines segment is of course suspenseful .The last fifteen minutes come as an anticlimax afterward..

Jean Becker would enjoy a lot of success with his overblown (and highly overrated) "l'été meurtrier" at the beginning of the eighties.As for Giovanni he made himself a remake of "un nommé la Rocca" in 1972:Belmondo took on his leading part,Christine Kaufman was replaced by Claudia Cardinale and Michel Constantin -who plays here a small part of an American deserter who goes racketeering the nightclubs- was cast as Xavier ,Pierre Vaneck's role.The new movie was called "la scoumoune" (= rotten luck)but did not bring anything new:highlights remain the scenes on the beach.The conclusion is slightly different .
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Somewhat Melvillian in its style, if not as much in its worldview
philosopherjack6 September 2018
Warning: Spoilers
It's a bit strange that the title of Jean Becker's Un nomme La Rocca takes the form of an assertion of identity, because the character barely has any coherence at all, beyond what flows from Jean-Paul Belmondo's embodiment of him (which is obviously way more than nothing). After an almost Leone-like prologue, the movie takes La Rocca to Paris, where he effortlessly muscles in on the gambling and bar scene, shooting one antagonist and pushing others around like playing cards. That comes to a sudden end after he tangles with some American deserters and gets sent to jail, not inconvenient anyway as he'd been musing on how to spring his incarcerated best friend Xavier from there. The movie spends a while in conventional behind-bars mode, until the two men volunteer for a land mine clearing team in exchange for reduced sentences, and events shift into sweaty, stripped-down, existentially-questioning mode, pushing Xavier in particular to the limits of his tolerance. The final chapter, a couple of years later, has the men free again, maintaining an apparently chaste household with Xavier's sister (La Rocca's sexual prowess, emphasized earlier on, is off the film's agenda by this point) and aiming to buy a farm property; Xavier taps his old shady connections to get the money, leading to a final tragedy, and La Rocca barely has any role in this final act other than to react, lament and ultimately walk away. The movie has a colourful supporting cast, dotted with portrayals that vividly impact before being summarily swept aside; the opening credits inform us it was shot at the Jean-Pierre Melville studios, and Becker's direction sometimes feels Melvillian, although mostly only to the extent of a style, not a worldview or investigative method. Unless, that is, in the year after A bout de souffle, the title somehow means us to reflect on the emptiness of such filmic labels and narratives even as we succumb to them.
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