Josep (2020) Poster


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Imperfect but interesting
guy-bellinger20 October 2020
The animated movie 'Josep' must be regarded first and foremost as a sincere tribute paid by one cartoonist to another, the latter dead for a quarter of a century. The first is Aurel (real name Aurélien Froment), press cartoonist for the French newspapers Le Monde and Le Canard Enchaîné. The other is Josep Bartoli (1910-1995), a talented but too little known Catalan Spanish draftsman, whose main work, the cartoon album "La retirada", bears witness to life in a concentration camp (his own and that of his fellow prisoners). A concentration camp ? Eh yes! And a French one at that, erected by a democratic republic whose motto is, let's remember, "Liberty, equality, fraternity". Such was indeed the "asylum" provided to Franco's victims by the French government when, following the fall of the Spanish Republic, they fled to their "brother" country. For sure, if seen only from this angle, Aurel's initiative does inspire respect. By turning Bartoli's drawn work into a feature film, Aurel indeed gives it wider visibility, thus reinforcing the power of its humanist message, a heart-wrenching call for the respect of human dignity, particularly relevant in these troubled times. A prisoner himself, subjected like his fellow citizens to unworthy conditions, malnourished, uncared for, mistreated, humiliated day after day, Josep resisted, and notably thanks to a massive "weapon of survival", an unusual talent for drawing that he put to good use: making sketches of the everyday horror enabled him to endure the ordeals engendered by the situation and at the same time to testify to the ignominy that breeds them. The resulting court of miracles of skinny, sickly, crippled, desperate creatures that he depicts is without appeal, as were those of Jacques Callot or Goya in a more distant past. On the whole, Aurel's film gives us a good enough idea of Bartoli's graphic universe but if you aim to appreciate Bartoli's work at its true value you had better get the album. Because, however commendable it is, "Josep" has his limits. On the passive side, at least in my opinion, the rudimentary animation, far removed from the shock effect produced by Bartoli's drawings, which prevents an unreserved adhesion to the project. Seeing characters progress in successive jolts or hardly move doesn't allow for easy entry into the story, which makes "Josep" inferior to a work like "Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles" and behind masterpieces like "Persepolis" or "Waltz with Bashir". Problematic too are a certain lack of historical explanations as well as gaps in the hero's personal history which, if filled, would have made the whole thing more arresting. A defect particularly compensated for by a great art of putting things into perspective, certainly due to the screenwriter Jean-Louis Milesi. We thus cross five eras, from 1939 to 2020, and the different eras (normal continuity, flash backs and even flash forwards with Frida Kahlo), illuminating each other. All things considered, "Josep" is perhaps, as I said, only half convincing, but half convincing is enough to recommend this film sincere in its approach as well as quite touching. Which is certain that by going to see it you won't waste your time.
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Josep's portrait.
morrison-dylan-fan18 November 2020
Warning: Spoilers
Checking in early October for screenings at the HOME cinema in Manchester, I learnt about the Manchester Animation Festival taking place in November. With the UK having gone back into Lockdown, I was pleased to find the festival would continue online, drawing me to Josep.

View on the film:

Revealing in a Q&A at the festival that he was originally making a short film, before learning of the real Josep's grandson story led to him changing directions, political cartoonist for newspapers Le Monde and Le Canard Enchaine, director Aurel makes his feature film debut by bringing the rough edges of political drawings to animations. Drawing Josep Bartoli's sketches that Bartoli drew of he and fellow "prisoners" in a French concentration camp,which were later gathered in the the cartoon album "La Retirada."

Aurel pens a limited animation style, which whilst capturing the conditions Josep was in via a dour palette, becomes increasingly frustrating.

Circling closer to Josep, Aurel's animating style comes off at being at odds with the subject, via the closer the film gets to opening his life,the more withdrawn and limited the expressiveness of Josep becomes.

Whilst the appearance of the film lacks colour, the screenplay by Jean-Louis Milesi brings a vibrancy in daring to wipe the varnish away in the treatment of the French state to those fleeing Franco's Spain in 1939. Josep and fellow refugees suffering degrading treatment and starvation from "prison" guards, under the banner of a country claiming to stand for liberty and equality.

Talking to his grandson, Josep's discussions allow Milesi to take a enticing fragmented approach to dipping into his harrowing time in the camp,and the glimpses of light in his later life around family,in the life of Josep.
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Art as resistance and testimony
danybur24 January 2021
In 1939, the Spanish refugees persecuted by Franco, once they crossed the Pyrenees, were confined by the French government in concentration camps.

This tough animated film by Aurel narrates the meeting of Serge, a French gendarme, with the Catalan cartoonist and painter Josep Bartoli (in the voice of Sergi López) in a prison camp in Perpignan and the friendship that developed between them.

The film is structured as a flash back based on the story that an elderly Serge tells his grandson. The line of the drawing is sober and corresponds to the dryness of this atypical biopic.

The film's bleak atmosphere and its portrayal of the horrors of the camp are at times overwhelming. His notes on the political universe of the time are also accurate, with a triumphant Franco regime and a spectrum of Spanish refugees where the political differences between them appear, reflect on the limits of obedience, suffer the devastating force of prejudice, emerge the value of piety and solidarity and art stands out as salvation and testimony.

It is in the camp where most of the story takes place, which in no way exhausts the odyssey suffered by Bartoli, who at one point expressed: "if these great ideas do not find a good person, they become death"
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By no means perfect, but very interesting
garethcrook12 February 2021
You could write down what I know of the Spanish Civil War on the back of an ant, nada! This tells the story of Josep Bartoli, a Catalan artist who lived through it. The illustrative animated style therefore makes perfect sense. Heavy purposeful lines with just enough detail, minimal shading, muted watercolour washes for the war time scenes. A little more detail and crispness for the modern day, it's really nice. Although I think I'd have preferred it to have mimicked Bartoli's own style. The animation is subtle in its motion, fluid only where it needs to be, but every frame looks beautiful, looks drawn. It's got soul and feeling. The story is told via a young French teen, who himself likes to draw. Valentin finds himself reluctantly looking after his grandfather one afternoon. I'm not going to give you a history lesson but this is what Valentin gets, of the French concentration camps in '39 that housed the displaced Catalans when Barcelona fell to Franco's fascists. The grandfather, Serge, a French officer guarding the prisoner like refugees, is not a well man, he tells his grandson his story and in doing so, Josep's. Serge is a sensitive soul, sympathetic to the Catalans in their misery. Hunger and disease are rife in the camp. He takes pity. Seeing Josep scribbling on the side of a hut, he gives him a pencil and some paper. Granting him some salvation and means to capture life in the camp. Google Josep's work, the scribbled line drawings depict the some of the inhumanity we know from the Nazis atrocities to follow a few years later. It's hard not to conclude that this might've been a better way to illustrate this. This does feel like the harsh story has had the edges rounded a little, by the animation and the way it's told. We've a cast of undesirable power hungry characters though. Telling the story of the bigger picture through individual experience. Struggling to survive. To find loves ones. Everyone has their choices to make, as the Nazis take control of the narrative and the Resistance comes into play. It's a great piece of work, reminds me a little of Waltz with Bashir. Definitely one to seek out... even if you don't learn a great deal about the Spanish Civil War.
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Cinema Omnivore - Josep (2020) 6.8/10
lasttimeisaw10 May 2021
"Not shying away from the horrendous acts, scenarist Jean-Louis Milesi also tries to squeeze levity and sensuousness into this tale of woe, even conjures up Frida Kahlo into Josep's fantasy, to whom he will be romantically linked years later in Mexico. But told in dribs and drabs, the narrative doesn't amp up appreciable emotional impact, Bartolí is chummy, but no character for us to empathize with. And mingled with a frame story where an old Serge, on his deathbed, inculcates his modern-day grandson to carry on with his memory, JOSEP consciously wears its heart on its sleeve, but what is remarkable about it?"

read my full review on my blog: cinema omnivore, thanks.
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Takes you inside the events...
murat-gurler24 January 2021
At the beginning of the film, I did not expect that much affection. But when it goes on, film took me inside to the begginning of world war two to a French camp at the Spanish border. Beautiful inspirational story made my day. Fully satisfied my expectation from cinema. Bravo.
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The end of the Spanish Civil War
hof-418 February 2023
Josep Bartoli (1910-1995) was a Catalan painter and cartoonist. He was a Communist militant and fought in the Spanish Civil War. After Barcelona's fall to Franco's fascists, he crossed the Pyrenees and sought refuge in France, He was incarcerated in various internment camps. He escaped, briefly found employment in Paris and narrowly avoided being deported to the Dachau extermination camp during the German occupation. He was a member of the Resistance.

In 1944 he traveled to Méjico, at the time home to more than 20,000 Spanish Republicans in exile, and published there a collection of drawings made in captivity in the French camps. In 1946 he moved to New York and then to Hollywood, where he worked as a set designer. He was blacklisted under McCarthyism and this perhaps explains a curiosity; although IMDb registers his name there is no list of his movie work, which makes one suspect that his name was substituted or deleted from credits.

This movie is not a documentary. The story begins with Serge, a ex-gendarme in his deathbed confiding his confused remembrances to his grandson. Serge served in the camp and showed humanity towards Josep. Cartoonist Aurel has put the tale on screen not trying to imitate Bartoli's drawings, although several of them play an important role. The animation is limited, and sometimes we have sequences of still frames where the only things that move are smoke or snowflakes. This austere approach fits the tale, which covers Josep's life from his exile to his escape from the Dachau death train, and a little of his Méjico sojourn. I enjoyed every minute of this film and as a bonus got to know the story of a remarkable artist and a man that never compromised his integrity.
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Passage of Testimony
ricardojorgeramalho3 January 2023
A Spanish-French-Belgian animated film that follows the life of revolutionary painter Josep Bartoli, from his escape from Barcelona at the end of the Spanish Civil War and imprisonment in a French concentration camp to his death as an established artist between Mexico and the United States, through the eyes of his friend Serge, the gendarme who helped him escape, who, at the end of his life, recounts his adventures to his grandson, also a promising artist.

An interesting technique suited to the theme, constantly evoking Josep's drawings, in a tough theme but constructive of a collective memory, which is intended to be passed on to new generations.
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