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Film / Madame Rosa

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Madame Rosa (La vie devant soi in France) is a 1977 film from France, directed by Moshe Mizrahi, starring Simone Signoret.

Madame Rosa (Signoret) is an ex-prostitute now in her sixties. She is Jewish, and when she was younger she was an inmate at Auschwitz. She was still servicing clients when she was north of 50, but eventually she had to quit, and now she has a little orphanage/day care center business that she runs out of her apartment. She specializes in taking in the children of working prostitutes.

Momo is her oldest charge, although he's still a boy. Madame Rosa tells him that he's only 11, although he appears to be older. No one has ever shown up for Momo since he was dropped off at Madame Rosa's years ago, and at some point the money orders paying for his upkeep stopped coming, but he stays with Madame Rosa anyway. Momo is fiercely loyal to his substitute mother. When Madame Rosa's health starts to rapidly decline, Momo becomes her protector.


  • Dying Alone: Madame Rosa retreats to her secret hideaway in the staircase to do this but Momo stays with her.
  • The Cameo: The minor role of Ramon, Nadine's husband, is played by Costa-Gavras. Costa-Gavras is far better known as a film director of movies like Z and missing. (1982).
  • Comforting Comforter: Madame Rosa is shown tucking in her young kids, showing that she really does care about them.
  • Deus ex Machina: Will Momo be left as a homeless urchin after Madame Rosa dies? Well, no, because Nadine the well-to-do film editor has agreed to take him in.
  • Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: Nadine and Ramon start talking to each other in English when they want to discuss Momo's highly agitated state.
  • ISO-Standard Urban Groceries: Well, maybe if you actually live in France, it's OK to bring home a baguette sticking out of your grocery bag.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Madame Rosa shows Momo some pictures of her when she was younger (pictures of the real and ridiculously beautiful young Simone Signoret). Later, she looks in the mirror again and bemoans how ugly she's gotten.
  • Only Known By His Nickname: Momo's real name is "Mohamed"
  • Orphanage of Love: Madame Rosa obviously loves the little children in her care.
  • Secret Test of Character: A man shows up claiming to be a Muslim, like Momo, and Momo's father. Madame Rosa tests him, telling him that there was a mixup and her son was raised as a Jew. The man freaks out so badly that he dies on the spot of a heart attack. Then again, since he's already admitted to murdering Momo's mother in a jealous rage, maybe the secret test wasn't necessary.
  • Son of a Whore: Most of the children in Madame Rosa's care. It turns out that Momo's mother was murdered by her pimp.
  • Street Performer: When money is tight in the Madame Rosa household, Momo earns a little bit extra by doing a puppet show out on the street.
  • Streetwalker: There are quite a few around; evidently Madame Rosa does not live in the best neighborhood.
  • Tell Me About My Father: Momo pesters Madame Rosa for information about his parents. She's reluctant to tell him, because the news isn't very pleasant.
  • Vague Age: Probably invoked and justified, as, according to Mme. Rosa, Momo is 11 but he looks older than that. If we had to guess, she's probably not revealing his age as a form of protection, though she might not really know how old he is, either.