A standard-issue mezzobrow Holocaust melodrama of the sort you’d have thought Roberto Benigni had assassinated, this popular French film centers on the notorious Vel’ d’Hiv roundup, in which French police, under Nazi orders, arrested some 13,000 Jews in Paris and shipped them out to internment camps and, eventually, to Auschwitz. Mélanie Laurent is a stoic nurse, Sylvie Testud a fated mom, Jean Reno a large-hearted doctor, and around them swarm a platoon of stereotypes: blowsy village shopkeepers, earthy Jewish dads, adorable tykes, sadistic guards, collaborationist rats, etc. Bosch’s sophomore shot is paradigmatically heavy on emotional-cue emphasis, nostalgia, and reaction-shot pathos, but the good intentions are patronizing; it’s not as if we need so much pandering effort expended to show us that Jews are human, too. (One of the little Buster Browns even throws marbles on the stairs to trip up the evil Germans. Ha!) Once the deportations begin, of course, the gears of anxiety begin to lock, greased mostly by our knowledge and not the film’s eloquence. Treading on a shameful piece of French history, Bosch bizarrely intercuts scenes of Hitler, Himmler, and Hess working out the logistics of the exportations, in vignettes that smack of Inglourious Basterds farce, but otherwise, she’s got a steady grip on the tear-jerking, if that’s your awards-season cocktail.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 14, 2012