This film was shown yesterday Monday July 30th 2007 as a result of Michel Serrault's death earlier on that day. Serrault had been in a series of films where he was playing with younger generation actors, notably in "Le Papillon" with Claire Bouaniche and "Une Hirondelle A Fait le Printemps" with Mathilde Saignier. Monsieur Leon is a similar sort of film but with totally different subject matter. Set in the 1940's in occupied southwestern France - I assume Bordeaux. A young lady from Paris is working for the resistance movement and is sent to the south. Her husband, an aviator has already been killed in action. She therefore leaves Paris with her little son and whilst she is engaged in resistance activities, the son must stay with his paternal grandfather ( Serrault ) who is a doctor by trade and lives in the Bordeaux Area. He lives alone but has a housekeeper. Because he is often seen with the occupant Germans, tending and nursing them, most of the village take him to be a collabo(rateur), i.e. a French citizen working with the Nazi occupiers. The little boy is disgusted at this and whilst having to remain alone with his grandfather whilst his Mum is elsewhere, has a problem communicating with him as he is so shocked by what he sees. But, things are not quite as they seem and although Serrault, exteriorily is hob-nobbing with the Germans, he is in fact working with the underground, helping to hide and evacuate Jewish families etc etc. However the boy's ostensible dislike for his grandfather does in fact help to "offset" the covert activities of the latter with regard to the Germans and enables him to remain above suspicion. The first part of the film is fairly flat and uninteresting, and depicts situations already seen in countless other films...however in the second half, things hot up and resistance members are captured by the Germans...Serrault is obliged to help his daughter-in-law and grandson to escape, thereby revealing his true identity to the Germans .. I confess to enjoying this and will readily buy it when it comes out on DVD. The fact that a child is involved in this sort of story inevitably produces increased emotions. For some strange reason during the last ten years of so, France has produced a spate of World War II films as if there was a sudden feeling of wanting to "evacuate" past guilt relating to collaboration with the Germans.
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