In occupied France, German-run Continental Films calls the shots in the movie business. Assistant director and Resistance activist Jean Devaivre works for Continental, where he can get "in ... See full summary »
In occupied France, German-run Continental Films calls the shots in the movie business. Assistant director and Resistance activist Jean Devaivre works for Continental, where he can get "in between the wolf's teeth and avoid being chewed up". Fast-living screenwriter Jean Aurenche uses every possible argument to avoid working for the enemy. For both, wartime is a battle for survival. Written by
Far and away the best of the recent spate of WW11 movies from France this is also the only one to have played in England. It is inevitable that an Englishman living in a country that was never occupied and with no real first-hand knowledge of WW11 will look at this - or any film on the same subject - with different eyes from a French viewer, especially a French viewer whose memories encompass the years in question. For me, an Englishman, who loves craftsmanship, be it French, Italian, English or American, and has only contempt for the infamous essay in which Truffaut attacked the values personified by, among others, scriptwriter Jean Aurenche, who is a character in this film, and Tavernier, who made the film, a great deal of the pleasure was in Tavernier's defence of Aurenche and the 'well-made' school of filmmaking, but over and above that what we have is almost three hourse of superb storytelling and an evocation of a turbulent time. Denis Polyades (currently on French screens in a tasty remake of The Yellow Room Mystery (Le Mystere de la chambre jaune) is excellent as Aurenche although of course I never knew Aurenche other than via his great screenplays but Tavernier did know him and so presumably guided Polyades to a true portrait. French film buffs will be well versed in the period when 'Contintental' films was active under German control and will, theoretically, share my fascination in any light from whatever quarter that can be shed on it. I saw this movie initially in a small Paris Art House where it played after its initial release and, not unexpectedly in the Latin Quartier and just down the block from the Sorbonne, there were several students in the audience - for that matter out of, at a guess, 120-150 patrons about two thirds of them were under 50 and, by definition, could have no first-hand knowledge of wartime Paris - yet the film was greeted with respect and applause. I subsequently saw it in London, subtitled and with, presumably, a predominently English audience, and it was greeted much the same way.
I accept that not everyone takes the view that I do, namely, that movies, like plays, novels, or any creative form, benefit from craftsmanship and professionalism, equally not everyone will despise the Truffauts of this world who thrive on iconaclism for its own sake - ironically, as I've remarked elsewhere, Truffaut eventually began to turn out exactly the same kind of well-crafted movie on which he had poured so much vitriol - but for like-minded film buffs there is so much to delight in when master craftsmen like Tavernier (and, to a lesser ambitious extent, Francis Werber, who is single-handedly filling the void left by Billy Wilder) unveil a new film.
15 of 20 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?