He was assistant to Renoir from 1932 onward, often playing small parts in the masters films: the poet who meets Bouclu (32) in the park, or an English officer in La Grande Illusion (37). He withdrew from L'Ordu Cristobal, his first feature, as war began, but managed to work during the war and came to notice with the rural film, Goupi Mains-Rouges. After the war, he veered from the deliberate social studv of 'Rendez-Vous de Juillet to the Paramount-like airiness and inconseqüentiality of Edouard et Caroline to the full-blooded romance of Casque d'Or. That is his richest film, a fated love story in the Paris of the 1890s, looking like Auguste Renoir, but with a summery sensuousness that is Becker's most personal achievement. Simone Signoret’s blonde in bloom in it is one of the most convincing women in French cinema.
Thereafter, Becker seemed to lose his way. Jean Cabin was excellent in the carefully authentic Touchez Pas au Grisbi, but Ali-Baba was Fernandel fodder. He took ov er the subject of the life of Modigliani when Max Ophuls died, but despite Gérard Philipe, Lilli Palmer, and Anouk Aimée, Montparnasse 19 was more decorative than affecting. His last film was his greatest departure: Le Trou is a ston of prisoners attempting to escape— intense, claustrophobic, realistic but with all the unassertive faith in decency and feelings that distinguishes Becker’s best work.
Becker was a humane, observant, and inventive director who seemed willed into films by his apprenticeship to Jean Renoir on Boudu, Chotard et Compagnie, Madame Bovary, La Vie est à Nous, Partie de Campagne, Les Bas-Fonds, La Grande Illusion, and La Marseillaise. He lacked the masters innate passion for cinema, and he never properly discovered either a style or a subject matter in which he could immerse himself. His work is therefore very variable, more often exploring and searching than actually discovering truths.
As if aware of the gap between himself and Renoir, he never entirely shrugged off modesty and worked as a sort of tribute: “I believe in the possibility of entertaining friendship and in the difficulty of maintaining love. I believe in the value of effort. And I believe above all in Paris. In my work I do not want to prove anything except that life is stronger than everything else.’’ It might be from a devotional article on Renoir by a willing disciple who had observed and understood greatness but could never find it in himself. It was a kind gesture of Renoir’s to revive the trio from Casque d’Or in French Can Cun.