Old Simone Signoret immortalized herself in the role of Madame Rosa (she, probably, acted in this film free to support its humanistic and anti-war sensibility), an ex-prostitute and concentration camp survivor during the Holocaust. We see her living in a poor section of Paris supporting herself by looking after small children, mostly of prostitutes.

Momo and Moishe (Arabic and Jewish adolescents correspondingly) are among Mme Rosa’s “kids” – they live under her care, and she tries to share with them what she has learned during her long life: experiences of loving, forgiving, caring about and helping other human beings, even in the impossible circumstances.

Anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the American neo-conservatives’ project of “hundred year war between Christ and Mohammed” by using human bodies as a waist product of this monumental clash, should watch this film that is capable to empower us emotionally and mentally to keep our humanity during times of hate, greed, financial collapses and austerity.

While living with Mme Rosa from a very early age, Momo was exposed to the influence of four people, whose relationships with him had an aspect of mentorship: Mr. Amir, an old Arabic wise man, well versed in Koran and French literature, Nadine (Michal Bat Adam), a film-editor with a social worker‘s interests and seductive manners, a prostitute who has offered Momo to save him from everyday poverty and the dangers connected with it (if he will agree to live with her), and Mme Rosa herself with whose personality Momo falls in love and from whom he learns the emotional codes and the parameters of existential spirituality.

Among things love taught Momo is how not to be afraid of natural death and, therefore, how living is different from survival, and how to be free from conventional common sense which puts human mind in stupor and human heart in the modality of impressing others and achieving success.

Madame Rosa cares about Momo as about a child, but addresses him as an adult, with tact and frankness and respect for his personality and sensitivity. And she always explains to him her impressions about life without any didactic tone. The film starts with panoramic view of the crowded street in Pigalle, and Madame Rosa and Momo as the heroes of the film are, as if, close ups into the crowd. Their relationship is established by Mizrahi as a model of togetherness between two human beings (including separation by Madame Rosa’s death as inevitable, without any mythological embellishments, event).


“Madame Rosa” (“La vie devant soi/The Life in Front of You” – 1977) By Moshe Mizrahi

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One of the last moments of being together between Momo and Madame Rosa, which soon will become for him a sacred memory as an alternative to a social life where people come together only externally (although with emotions), without internal meeting.

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Momo is looking at his future life without Madame Rosa. After living with her he understands that the very ability to live without her is part of their relationship.

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Moshe Mizrahi at the time of making “La vie devant soi”

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Moshe Mizrahi in his late age

Posted on 25 Dec 2010 –   Moshe Mizrahi’s “Madame Rosa” (1977) – Paths of Love (When Two Become a Universe, When the Universe Becomes Larger) by Acting-Out Politics