An Examination of “Dead Time” in the Classic French Comedy Antoine and Antoinette


Filmmaker Jacques Becker valued what he called “dead time,” the little moments in life when nothing seems to be happening and in which people reveal themselves most fully. As his characters go about their mundane business—whether as master thieves or as simple shopkeepers—they gaze at each other lovingly while making small, clumsy efforts not to give away all their thoughts. The working-class married leads of Becker’s fourth film, 1947’s Antoine and Antoinette (screening newly restored on DCP), share a flat and a life in postwar Paris, seen as a busily moving world in which lovers strive to make time for each other. Book-printing-plant worker Antoine (then-relative newcomer Roger Pigaut) comes home to play at petty jealousy with his wife and to try to get out for a walk together around the rebuilding city; beaming photo booth operator Antoinette (also novel Claire Mafféi) aims to put away her workday cares in favor of embracing her husband. A conflict arises when older grocer Roland (Noël Roquevert) brings Antoinette flowers and an offer to work in his shop, but is swept aside by Antoine and Antoinette’s discovery that they have bought a winning lottery ticket for 800,000 francs. Rather than immediately cashing in on their prize, though, the two take occasion to lie in bed and list the things they’d like to buy. Their shared fantasies of wealth form part of the dream called love, made real between two people through hope, hard work, and luck.