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Madame Rosa

Madame Rosa
Film poster
Directed by Moshé Mizrahi
Written by Moshé Mizrahi
Starring Simone Signoret
Michal Bat-Adam
Samy Ben-Youb
Gabriel Jabbour
Geneviève Fontanel
Release dates
  • 2 November 1977 (1977-11-02)
Running time
105 minutes
Country France
Language French

Madame Rosa (French: La Vie devant soi) is a 1977 French film adaptation of the novel The Life Before Us (1975; French: La vie devant soi), authored by Romain Gary under the pseudonym of Émile Ajar. Through his double identity, Gary, who had already received the Prix Goncourt in 1956 for Les Racines du ciel, received it again, in 1975 for La vie devant soi, becoming the first writer to be twice attributed the highly coveted award. The film adaptation was directed by Moshé Mizrahi and produced by Daniel Pomerantz.


Madame Rosa (Simone Signoret) is a frail, aging, retired Jewish prostitute and Auschwitz survivor who earns a meager living by caring for the children of younger female sex workers, as well as for Momo (short for Mohammed) (Sami Ben Youb), a young Arab boy on the verge of adolescence. Momo hasn't seen his parents in years. He and Madame Rosa struggle to make ends meet, and as her body and mind start to fail, it becomes clear that Momo is the only person she has left in the world. Despite his young age, he has to help Madame Rosa who refuses to be hospitalized. He will stay with her as she faces her ultimate fears and prepares for her last and most difficult voyage.


The story of Madame Rosa and Momo unfolds in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural community. The profound emotional bond between the two main characters, one an old Jewish woman and the other a young Arab boy, is what drives the film emotionally from the beginning to the end. The film also emphasizes the compassion and empathy that can be found in such a disadvantaged community context through the helping gestures of the secondary characters. Madame Lola, for example, while being bluntly described by Momo as "a transvestite" who had been "a boxing champion in Senegal", is depicted in both the book and the film without any sensationalism. To the contrary, she is presented as a compassionate human being who is concerned by the poverty of Madame Rosa and Momo, giving them food and money without expecting anything in return. Momo says of her that "she's really somebody", that he "likes her"; Madame Rosa declares, "She's a Saint, I don't know where we'd be without her". The dynamic represented between Madame Rosa, Momo and their transsexual prostitute neighbor, Madame Lola, stands as a good example of the type of deeply humanistic values and respect for human difference, whether that difference is of a sexual, religious, or racial nature, that is embedded in Romain Gary's written text and further successfully emphasized through Moshé Mizrahi's cinematographic representation of the story.


Book version

Ralph Manheim's English-language translation of La Vie devant soi has been published twice by Doubleday, under different titles:

  • Momo (1978)
  • The Life Before Us ("Madame Rosa") (1986)

See also


  1. ^ "The 50th Academy Awards (1978) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2012-04-01. 

External links