Film

Film

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French author Robert Bober’s luminous autobiographical novel Quoi de Neuf sur la Guerre? is set in a garment district atelier of Paris just after World War II, where a handful of ladies’ tailors and seamstresses—some with numbers tattooed on their arms—are learning once again to live. In its screen adaptation, Almost Peaceful, French director Michel Deville has managed to preserve the work’s great virtues—the intimacy, discretion, grace, and humor with which it speaks of both irredeemable disaster and the taste for life that survives it. If Hollywood had made this film, the characters would declaim the horrors of the Holocaust. Almost Peaceful handles the subject with more subtlety: A pregnant worker (Lubna Azabal) wraps her soon-to-be-born son’s pajamas in the arms of a sweater that once belonged to her mother; her husband, a presser/Yiddish actor/ex-Resistance fighter (Vincent Elbaz), cracks a joke about Auschwitz; the boss, M. Albert (Simon Abkarian), explains that buttonhole was one of his passwords as he spent the war hidden above a tailor’s shop. Throughout, the magical presence of children softens the texture of their loss.

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