Goupi mains rouges (It Happened at the Inn). 1943. France. Written and directed by Jacques Becker. Based on the novel by Pierre Véry. With Fernand Ledoux, Georges Rollin, Blanchette Brunoy. 35mm. 96. In French; English subtitles min.
In 1945 Lincoln Kirstein contributed a piece to the Bulletin of the Museum of Modern Art on French film under the Occupation. “In spite of the fact that certain essential necessities, lens, celluloid, camera, and other primary technical means were increasingly difficult to obtain,” he noted, “in spite of the fact that the Vichy-Berlin Propaganda Staffel was ubiquitous, despite the strict elimination of any themes remotely calculated to seem defiant or even resistant, a number of pictures emerged, made mostly in the center or south of France which not only maintained, but indeed enhanced the prestige of the national industry.” Among the most celebrated of these productions, Kirstein cited Goupi mains rouges. Jacques Becker’s sophomore effort—part mystery, part melodrama—focuses on a close-knit rural family, thrown into disarray when the matriarch of the clan is found murdered on the very night that a young relative, all but a stranger to them, arrives from Paris. Resentments old and new curdle deliciously throughout this picture, which thrives, perhaps out of necessity, on its moral ambiguities.