a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Germans’

“Le Village Francais” Is a Mixed Bag. French TV Series on WWII now on MhZ

French VillageMuch as I admire its’ audacity and ambitious reach of subject, the entire history of World War II, as encaptured in the life of a “French Village,” I hate to say it but this hit European TV series is very hit and miss.

It sounds good on paper. Each season of the TV series will focus on a different year in the occupation of France by the Germans during WWII.  And it starts off with a bang, as a group of school children go out to play on a field trip on a sun-dappled day in the tiny town of Villeneuve, a fictional subprefecture in the Jura region of France.

German planes suddenly are seen over head and begin shooting up everything in sight, including the children. A horrifying beginning, to be sure. But then we are slowly introduced to the characters and I have to say I had no great feelings for any of them.

Sure, the SITUATION they are is in riveting, but only up to a point. And the actors all look so similar it’s very hard to keep them and their plot-lines straight. The exception is Robin Renucci, a doctor who is co-erced into becoming the town’s reluctant Mayor.

Robin Renucci 1And he is forced to do many things that he does not want to do within the course of the 10 episode series. Each episode a little under the hour in length. He is actually by his acceptance of the Mayoral position, an unwitting symbol of the Vichy government. His bourgeois family continues to live well as all around him begin to starve due to ration restrictions.

The actors all being dark-haired and dark-eyed and average-looking, it took me a long time to sort out their different characters and predicaments. However, the incredible attention to war-time detail does fascinate. Some one can be jailed for just booing Hitler in a newsreel in a movie theater, for instance.

Then there’s the leftists who want to insert resistance pamphlets in all the daily newspapers. And do. But the characters doing this are all sadly two dimensional.

The Jewish question, and there a lot of Jews in this small town, is pretty much a non-issue until the latter part of Season One. Our understanding of WWII is so much based on the plight of the Jews that that part of the series suddenly springs to life as the Season ends.

It’s a great record of the period, though and I particularly loved the Special Features wherein the actual townspeople these characters are often based on get to speak, in French, of their own real-life stories and they are all hair-raising.

Being set so far out in the country the full impact of the War hits them only gradually, in stages. And it is truly harrowing, as one by one their liberties and freedoms and businesses and lives are all taken over by the  occupying Germans.

I am looking forward to Season Two. Maybe this time they’ll have more relatable characters.

“The Book Thief” Definitely Oscar Worthy!

Just saw a truly wonderful late entry into the Oscar Race, Fox 2000’s “The Book Thief”, a small “little” film that is anything but. “The Book Thief” creeps up and steals your heart away and leaves you devastated.  Oscar, are you watching?

It’s World War II and an unseen narrator eerily sets the scene.  Who this narrator is slowly to be revealed is one of the main mysteries of “The Book Thief.” Is it Geoffrey Rush? The film’s leading man. Or just who is it?

Of course, this immediately sets up the greatest of film dynamics which is  the audience wanting to know “What’s going to happen next?” And with “The Book Thief” that suspense is maintained literally til the last frame. Which is really an achievement.

We’re in a familiar setting, Germany during WW II. In fact, it seems to resemble very closely another German back-dropped war drama “The Reader” which won Kate Winslet one Oscar and two Golden Globes.

“The Book Thief”could land a slew of Oscar nods, too. Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Geoffrey Rush) and Best Supporting Actress (Emily Watson) Best Adapted Screenplay and maybe more.

It depends on just how wily Fox 2000, sometimes referred to as Big Fox, plays its’ Oscar campaign from here on out. Fox Searchlight, of course, has a sweeping winner with “12 Years a Slave”. But “The Book Thief” should gets its’ due also.

IF enough Academy members get to see it in time to nominate it.

Geoffrey Rush gives one of his most beguiling and sweetly sympathetic performances as the adoptive father of the titular heroine, the child Leisl played by newcomer Sophie Nelisse, who is the Book Thief.

And Emily Watson gives hands down one of the best performances of her career as Leisl’s turbulent adoptive mother who is practising tough love with the child for most of the movie.

So familiar is this setting,i half-expected Kate Winslet to bicycle around the corner in braids any second. The aqua hue of the light is almost the same color of the lighting in “The Reader.”

The Nazi book burning that really sets the film in motion is frightening, and Leisl, who loves books so passionately that she begins to steal them, is traumatized by this event that she witnesses as a choir member of the Hitler Youth singing “Deustcheland Uber Alles.”

She even is so bold to steal one of the still smoldering books from the embers of the pile in one of the film’s pivotal moments. It’s still burning and as her kindly doting adoptive father Geoffrey Rush hurries her home, she starts coughing from the smoke that is coming from the still burning book hidden under her coat.

Rush takes the book from her then hides it under his coat. And more I cannot reveal, because the plot involves and tricks you with its’ many twists and turns that are its’ strengths. As well as the superb performances of Sophie Nelisse, Rush and Watson.

Don’t read any reviews that might spoil the delight of experiencing “The Book Thief” for the first time, not knowing what was going to happen. Just know that it COULD be nominated for Best Picture, though nobody is predicting it for the moment. BUT I AM.

Germany, the Halocaust, the Nazis, WWII, Academy Award Winner Geoffrey Rush, an adorable little girl heroine, it’s catkip to Oscar Voters, and to me as well. See it!

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