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THE TWO OF US
Directed by Claude Berri
Rialto, May 27 through June 9, Film Forum

I was eight years old and already a Jew," the hero of The Two of Us recalls. French director Claude Berri's 1967 debut is a tender comedy based on his wartime experiences as a hidden Jewish child in occupied France. Alain Cohen plays a Parisian imp whose parents send him to the countryside with a new last name and instructions not to let anyone see his (circumcised) "little birdie." It's good advice: The retired worker who takes him in (Michel Simon) turns out to be both an animal lover and an anti-Semite. Yet they fall for each other, as only two outcasts can. Recent French films about the occupation have labored under the pieties of historical hindsight. Berri focuses instead on the surreal quality of daily life at a time when most people got by with varying degrees of moral ambiguity. Some may find Berri's portrait of provincial France and its prejudices too loving, but it has the ring of a truth that escapes ideologies. It screens with his Le Poulet (1962), a short about a boy and his rooster sure to warm any vegetarian's heart. LESLIE CAMHI

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