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Le jardin des plantes (1994)

In Paris, near the end of World War II, crotchety professor Fernand Bonnard maintains a zoo and continues his research. He's a coward, as is his debonair son, Armand, who has one daughter, ... See full summary »




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Credited cast:
Fernand Bornard
Salomé Stévenin ...
Philippine Bornard
Rose Thiéry ...
Gert Burkard ...
Zoltán Gera ...
István Mészáros ...
Cyril Montana ...
Free French Soldier
Tamás Dunai ...
Captain Jones
János Szikora ...
Dr. Blauschild
János Kulka ...
Colonel Bastien
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
József Bal ...
The Director (as Jozsef Bal)
István Hunyadkürthy ...
Council Worker


In Paris, near the end of World War II, crotchety professor Fernand Bonnard maintains a zoo and continues his research. He's a coward, as is his debonair son, Armand, who has one daughter, Philippine. On her eighth birthday, Armand picks her up from her repressive boarding school and takes her to Fernand's to celebrate. Father and son quarrel, and Armand leaves, only to be arrested and shot for violating curfew. In grief, the curmudgeonly Fernand does not tell Philippine, but invents a life for Armand as a captain of the Resistance. Fernand takes her from school to live with him and his sensible wife. Along the way, Philippine finds out the truth and Fernand discovers courage. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Plot Keywords:

paris france | world war two | See All (2) »






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Release Date:

30 August 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Greenhouse  »

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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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User Reviews

What happened in Paris's famous Jardin des Plantes during the War
15 September 2010 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

For all those who have had the pleasure of visiting the Jardin des Plantes (Botanical Gardens) in Paris, with its miniature zoo, this film is a charming tribute to that institution and its struggle during the Nazi occupation of Paris. The story concerns the resistance to the Nazis which was actually carried out using the zoo itself as a base. The film is directed with a light Gallic touch by director Philippe de Broca, who died in 2004. The chief character is a little girl named Philippine, played enchantingly by Salomé Stévenin. As the film begins, she is a boarder in a harshly disciplinary Catholic school for girls, where the nuns persecute her. Her parents are both hopeless, her mother being an egomaniacal stage actress with no time for children, and her father Armand being a handsome and amoral collaborator with the Germans, also with little time for children. So the little girl's professorial grandfather, played with insouciance by Claude Rich, rescues her from the school and takes her in at his house in the zoo, of which he is the Director. The family survive by eating hippopotamus eggs, which they tell people are hen eggs! There are countless amusing scenes with the zoo animals behaving like pets, including a tame chimpanzee. This film thus has a great appeal for family audiences. But the purpose of the film is serious. Armand has a temper tantrum early in the film and storms out of his father's house after a silly quarrel at dinner and thinks that he can with impunity defy the Nazi curfew because he is friendly with some Nazi officers. But he is arrested and ends up being included amongst a group of random people shot in retaliation for the assassination by the Resistance of a German officer. Since the little girl now has no father, and her mother cannot be bothered with her, the grumpy but kindly grandfather has to become the parent-in-chief. He does not wish the girl to know that her father is dead, so he invents fantasy tales about his being a secret agent who fights the Nazis, and the grandfather and the girl enact various fantasy acts of passing messages, keeping secrets, and so on. The little girl eventually learns the truth but, just as he has tried to avoid telling her, she avoids telling him, and by mutual complicity they continue their joint fantasy, trying to spare each other's feelings. However, it all becomes real, and genuine Resistance people end up hearing about the mysterious super-agent 'Captain Armand' who does not really exist, and they begin to assume that the zoo director's house is a hotbed of active resistance against the Germans, and real Jews and downed Allied airmen begin to turn up and be concealed there, so what had started as a fantasy becomes dangerous reality. The film is amusing and entertaining, and is typically French. It does not descend into saccharine over-sentimentality as a Hollywood production would inevitably have done, it does not have the realistic grit a British production would have had, but ripples contentedly like one of those lighter passages of Saint-Saens's piano music, where he appears to be drifting along a peaceful river on a summer day. In other words, it is a French film, and reflects the French temperament where charm and the light touch are acceptable even in the most dangerous situations, where children can be delightful without being too clinging and cloying, and where one can laugh and cry intermittently without it being thought to be a contradiction of mood.

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