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In French, with subtitles. [Rated [R], 116 minutes]
A fact of life of these boards is that there is little interest in foreign films. Long time readers know that Cranky still sees and recommends 'em when they strike me as something above average. Well, here we go again.
The WWII movies we've seen in the last year or so, like many of the black and white John Wayne starrers Cranky grew up on (on teevee, I'm not that old) tend to concentrate on battles or the bonds formed by soldiers because of those battles. How nice then that we see a movie about the folk who fought the battle back home, and still had the opportunity to live "normal" lives -- to the extent that you could assuming that the Nazis who overran your country allowed it. The country is France. The stars of the story are members of the French Resistance and most of what you see on the big screen actually happened.
Allow me to digress: back in my film school days the screenwriting teacher was fond of saying that all great stories are love stories. She was right. In this film, as you would expect, the Nazis are the bad guys and the Resistance are the good guys. Central to the story is Lucie Aubrac (Carole Bouquet) and her husband Raymond (Daniel Auteuil) and her year-plus old son Jean-Pierre (Maxime Henry), nicknamed "Boo-Boo". It is 1943 in the city of Lyons in what is called the Southern Zone. The government which rules the zone is more collaborationist (they would say realistic) than patriotic and the Nazi grip is noticeably, but not much, looser. The Aubracs follow leader in exile Charles DeGaulle, who directs their efforts via coded broadcasts from the BBC in London. These "terrorists" are particularly effective, as is seen in the opening sequence of the film and escaping from the clutches of the French police is as much an intellectual exercise as a legal challenge.
But . . . and you knew there was a but coming, right? you can only change your location and identity a couple of time, evade the jaws of tyranny once or twice before they come snapping down on you. When they do, do you choose saving your country or saving the ones you love? The few members of the Resistance that you'll come to know all make different choices, and you can argue them over coffee afterwards. In a forged identity in which he is single, Raymond must deny all knowledge of the woman he loves; to do so saves her skin and that of the few freedom fighters still on the loose. But the Gestapo has figured out who he really is, and have sentenced the man to death. For Lucie, saving her husband preserves the fragile remnants of Resistance leadership in the Southern Zone and more important, saves her husband. This desire to have her cake and eat it too leads to some compelling and very dramatic scenes on the big screen, as she coordinates efforts to free her man before his date with the executioner.
This small story of Lucie Aubrac within the big story of "The Big One" is a fine one, well acted and well told in a fairly matter of fact style. One subplot involves the question of what happened to the Jews of France, but rather than being an acknowledgment of the Holocaust, it presents a most interesting twist to the main story, which I'll leave you to discover on your own. Blink and you'll also miss the fact that one of the Gestapo officers in the story is the notorious Klaus Barbie. If you don't know who Barbie was or what he did, you won't miss much in terms of the main story. It's just an extra layer of icing on the cake of a beautifully put together script.
And, being a French film, the woman is gorgeous and her guy is not. Ah, if only real life were really that way (said all the single male critics on the way out of the screening room. This one included.) <vbg>.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Lucie Aubrac, he would have paid...
The subtitles don't get in the way of the story. That's important. The story is great and the stuff I didn't tell you makes it even greater. Lucie Aubrac is highly recommended.
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