A German communist flees to Northern France with his son. German troops follow May 1940. The son flees with the village towards Dieppe at the English Channel, as does the separated dad, join... Read allA German communist flees to Northern France with his son. German troops follow May 1940. The son flees with the village towards Dieppe at the English Channel, as does the separated dad, joined by a Scottish officer.A German communist flees to Northern France with his son. German troops follow May 1940. The son flees with the village towards Dieppe at the English Channel, as does the separated dad, joined by a Scottish officer.
So the movie begins with archive films,like "jeux interdits" ("forbidden games") ,René Clément's masterpiece (1952). It's not really a true story but it's based on the director's mother's memories and it certainly means a lot to him.
Carion is a heir to the neglected cinema de papa ,he makes cinema populaire ,but like his peers of yore,he shows respect for the public, he's a wonderful story teller and his actors direction is faultless. And this cinema is a thousand more gripping than the dominant genre on the French scene ,the "feel good"
That is not to say his movie is faultless : it is a sprawling work ,with two parallel plots ,and all that concerns the Scottish soldier (why not a French soldier by the way?the problem would have been the same , he and the German refugee were "enemies"too ) often gets in the way ,but it at least provides some good scenes -the propaganda movies and the bagpipe Rhys plays for the Germans' movie camera .
On the other hand , the desperate odyssey of the villagers ,led by a mayor overtaken by events and history , is deeply moving and excellent .Olivier Gourmet,true to form, ,a God-forsaken Mosis ,leads his people to the promised land ,namely Dieppe harbor ; it' s the first time screenwriters have detailed this exodus :it's really hard to leave your farm, your house,most of your belongings and your dear memories behind ; along the way ,one can see scribbled messages on the blackboard or on the walls . Pretending there are things which remain in spite of it all ,the mayor gathers his town concil under the bust of Marianne in a makeshift townhall (in open air).
Women did not vote (they had this right after WW2 in 1946) and thus were not part of the council but it does not prevent the mayor's wife (the excellent Mathilde Seignier) from taking a rebel stand and leading the plundering of the grocer's shop (a selfish couple who predates ,unfortunately, the "everyman for himself" motto of certain French) ,a scene which recalls Zola's "Germinal" .
There are implausibilities of course : Gourmet had a lung removed because of the mustard gas ,but he does not seem to suffer from it; the father-and-son reunion (although the messages on the blackboard of the schools is a good idea ).
Ennio Morricone is ,as always , splendid and gives a western touch to this epic; Edith Piaf's and Charles Trenet's songs are thrown in for good measure.
Carion has a good sense of space and a sinister way of introducing the air raids by showing first a threatening shadow on the peaceful sunny country; the tanks making their way through the fields is also an impressive moment .
- Feb 14, 2022