Jeanne Moreau’s remarkable face has been carrying movies both great and not so much for the past 60 years. Amos Gitai’s latest falls into the second category, though the blame can hardly be placed on its octogenarian star. Moreau plays Rivka, a World War II survivor waiting out her final years in a Parisian apartment. Rivka is not inclined to think about the past, but her son, Victor (Hippolyte Girardot), starts to prod her after discovering that his father made a declaration of Aryan heritage—a revelation with the sort of troubling implications that are ideally unraveled in flashbacks over the course of a stolid, fest-circuit-baiting international co-production. One Day, You’ll Understand represents Gitai’s most restrained work in some time (there’s little of the rafter-reaching hysteria that marked Free Zone). But if anything, the film may be too controlled: The decision to frame much of the action in long, prowling tracking shots creates a feeling of remove that doesn’t quite fit with the emotionally explosive quality of the material. It doesn’t help that Girardot gives a grating lead performance and that a terrific performer like Emmanuelle Devos (as his let-sleeping-dogs-lie sister) is given so little to do. Moreau, meanwhile, is smart enough to let her magnificent countenance do the heavy lifting—the moments where Gitai simply focuses on her face do more to suggest the weight of a full, complicated life lived than all of the script’s carefully manicured machinations.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 29, 2008