Based on a book [by Emile Ajar] that won the top literary prize in ’75, film weaves a series of anecdotes about the relationship between an aging, ailing old Jewish woman who cares for the children of prostitutes and one of her charges, an Arab boy. Direction is unobstrusive and leaves the film to its actors, which works, due to the canny, insightful playing of Simone Signoret as the old woman.
Though unfolding mainly in the milieu of prostitutes and pimps in the Arab and Jewish worker section of Paris, it is never sordid. There is a tangy, salty humanity that never gets mawkish or bathetic.
Rose (Signoret), once in a concentration camp and a prostitute for 35 years, is very ill. One of her charges is a handsome, brooding boy who loves her, but whose stifled tenderness makes him unruly. When she dies, he stays with her for weeks, going out to eat, helped with money from a goodhearted transsexual joy girl. He spreads toilet water to kill the smell but firemen finally break in and take him away.
Director Moshe Mizrahi is Israeli of Moroccan origins and has lived in France for 10 years. Fine lensing by Nestor Almendros and a potent musical score by Philippe Sarde also help.
1977: Best Foreign Language Film.