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 »
Daniel is schoolmaster of a kindergarten in a small French town. The local economy, which depended entirely on coal production, has been mired in a depression ever since the mines were ... See full summary »
This gritty police drama shows us the underbelly of the Parisian drug trade. Lulu is a tough streetwise narcotics cop who, like a Frank Serpico or a Dirty Harry Callahan, doesn't play by ... See full summary »
Alexandre Taillard de Vorms is tall and impressive, a man with style, attractive to women. He also happens to be the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the land of enlightenment: France. With ... See full summary »
The setting is the Riviera in autumn. A retired English businessman has just been through heart surgery but it has, apparently, done little to relieve his constant pain or improve his ... See full summary »
Bertrand Tavernier is in top form with this gripping, superbly mounted drama set against the savage Catholic/Protestant wars that ripped France apart in the 16th century. Based on a novella... 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
Based also on Tavernier's conversations with Jean Aurenche who wrote screenplays with him. He is thanked in the end credits. See more »
The film credits include references to a Lysander and a Dakota but Devaivre flies out in a de Haviland Dragon Rapide, and is parachuted back into France from what looks like a Lockheed Hudson (as it has twin tailfins, it cannot be a Dakota). See more »
Bertrand Tavernier is without any doubt one of the leading french, and not only french, filmmakers. That he is also a leading conservative filmmaker has been evident from his very beginnings and not just since "L.627" (1992) or his documentary on the french-algerian war "La Guerre sans nom" (1992). With his latest film though Tavernier has taken conservativism to the extremes of historical revisionism. "Laissez-passer" emerges both as a technical masterpiece and a political embarassment.
On first sight the 170-minutes film seems to deal with the day to day life of filmmakers in german-occupied Paris during World War II. The revisionism comes on different levels:
At first there is a somewhat film-in-film revenge on the french nouvelle vague of the late 50´s and 60´s. Had the able craftsmen of the time only been given the chance to develop their taste and make their ideas come true, Tavernier seems to argue, they would have revolutionized french cinema long before the likes of Godard, Truffaut (whose "Le dernier metro" receives a special nod), Chabrol and all the others; critics and filmmakers Tavernier didn´t really like when he was a critic himself. Thus he rehabilitates the french cinema of quality of the 50´s, a cinema the cahiers-du-cinema bunch dismissed almost entirely. It helps to know that "Laissez-passer" deals with and stars real-life-protagonists Tavernier not only knew but worked closely with (for example Jean Aurenche and Pierre Bost, scripters of Taverniers first feature films), but knowing this Tavernier´s argument gets only more dubious.
The second and even more questionable level of revisionism is a thoroughly political one. "Laissez-passer" tries for nothing less than the justification of collaboration by pointing out that it wasn´t really collaboration with the nazis but enduring them. The film´s protagonists stresses more than once that he may be working for a german film company but works only on french films. That these films were part of the propaganda war Tavernier conveniently doesn´t deal with at all.
When everything´s said and done, according to Tavernier the collaborators were even the real resistance fighters. Vichy civil servants are shown as a resistance group who utilize their official status to inform the british intelligence about german plans (the Brits themselves being rather pathetic and more preoccupied with their tea than with winning the war). Communist resistance members on the other hand are shown as dogmatic opressors of their most faithful members. And since nothing else is heard or seen from Vichy officials, even the Vichy regime seems not to have been that bad alltogether. Michael Curtis "Casablanca" was more radical in this point, as Claude Rains alias Capitain Renault tosses an empty bottle of Vichy water into a wastebasket. And "Casablanca" was made in 1942.
In 2001 Tavernier clads all this in well known images of frenchness; note the heavy bicycling. The film´s last sentence informs us in voice over by the director himself that the film´s protagonist had told him, that given the chance he would do everything he did just once again. Which means that it was ok to make films a n d to collaborate. Combine this with the film´s title and you get the message to leave bygones be bygones. Take the film´s dedication into consideration - to those who lived through that time, a time when there were more important things than stubbornly sticking to idealistic ideas - you get the message that anybody who didn´t live through that time has no right to judge.
Au contraire, mon cher Bertrand, au contraire!
10 of 20 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this