Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Lucie Aubrac.

Claude Berri was responsible for two of France's best-known movies, both of which he directed and wrote, Jean de Florette (1986) and Manon des Sourses (1986) he also produced Roman Polanski's period drama Tess (1979). A lesser-known film, in the UK at least, is the 1997 World War 2 French biopic about the French Resistance member Lucie Aubrac, which Berri directed and co wrote with Aubrac - whose autobiography the story is based. Set in Lyon in 1943 this politicised drama tell the story of Lucie and her Jewish husband Raymond Samuel who had to change their name because of the persecution of the Jews by the Nazi's and who both became members of the resistance, and fought behind the lines when the German army invaded France.
Lucie and Raymond in the French resistants. 
On 21 June 1943, the Gestapo captured Raymond alongside and other high-ranking Resistance members including General Charles de Gaulle top representative Jean Moulin (under the alias "Max"). They were all taken to Montluc prison, located near Lyon. Lucie was able to talk face to face with Klaus Barbie, Lyon's Gestapo chief known as the Butcher of Lyon. Her alias was "Ghislaine de Barbentane", a name of high-standing, noble origin. Because of her pregnancy and a specific provision of French law called "marriage in extremis," under which a person condemned to death can marry civilly, Lucie managed to convince Barbie that she was unmarried, and being pregnant could not be a mother without being married. Barbie eventually allowed Raymond to be released for the wedding, which gave Lucie and the Resistance a window of opportunity.
The loving couple in old age. 

The film stars Carole Bouquet (For Your Eyes Only 1981) as Lucie and Daniel Auteuil as Raymond but neither actor does real justice to these interesting characters, never really bringing them to life. The movie is rather understated with only a minimal amount of tension for what should have been an exciting cinematic outing. The whole movie, other than the scenes in the prison, seems to be a little too "clean and tidy" for a country that had been invaded. Obviously the occupational forces came in through the front door, and wiped their feet! 

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