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Moving Take on the Jewish Round Up in Paris 1942.
on November 23, 2011
Its 1942 and France is under the Nazi jack boot, yet thanks to the plucky resistance the fascists are being thwarted at every turn ' or not as it turned out. This is a tale that has its roots in the now infamous round up of the Jews of Paris in the summer of 1942. They were mostly women and children and were herded into the city's velodrome, where they were kept in stifling temperatures with no amenities, including lavatories, food and water.
Sarah is living in a building in the Jewish quarter with her parents and younger brother. When the gendarmes came calling, she hid him in a wardrobe, locking him in and taking the key. Once they reached the velodrome they realised their mistake in having left little Michelle behind. The Jews were then taken to transit camps before finally going to the death camps including Auschwitz. This was all done by the French authorities, albeit at the behest of their Uber Lords.
Meanwhile in the modern day, Julia Jarmond's (Kristen Scott-Thomas) husband has inherited that self same apartment from his ailing mum. Julia is working for a new French magazine and is doing a piece on the 'round up' and has done some digging as to who these people were who had been in her new home.
The story flits back and forward telling the ordeals of Sarah and her fellow captives, in line with the unfolding truths that Julia finds increasingly difficult to accept. This is an extremely well acted and crafted film that deals with an emotional scar on the French psyche in an open and honest way. President Mitterrand actually apologised for French complicity in these deportations of 76,000 Jews. It took that long for France to face up to that part of her past, but at least she did it. This whole episode was told in a much more acute way in the film 'The Round Up', this film has some resonance with that but also 'Sophie's Choice'. There are fine performances all round and an excellent musical score, the whole thing exudes quality.
This is not an action flick and not straightforward good versus evil, as some of the Gendarmes are portrayed as good guys in the wrong place etc. Whilst it does not show some of the grittier sides to the subject in hand, it still faces up to them. It is in French, some English and a smattering of German, that is not always translated. Fans of war history films and Kristen Scott-Thomas will want to see this. A special word has to be said about the performance by Melusine Mayance who plays Sarah, she is utterly convincing, a brilliant performance. Write and director Gilles Paquet-Brennan has made an interesting and thoughtful film, that does him credit.