Safe Conduct
3 out of 5 stars Laissez-Passer
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
safe conduct With an unusual amount of lively humour, this Nazi-era epic is thoroughly engaging, even if it's difficult to follow. Set in occupied Paris in 1942, the story centres on two workers at a film company and their extremely different approaches to collaboration and resistance. Devaivre (Gamblin) is using the German-owned studio as a cover for clandestine resistance activities that get increasingly wild and dangerous. So he eventually sends his wife (Desgranges) and young son to a safe house in the country. Meanwhile, Aurenche (Podalydes) is a writer who avoids working directly with the Germans and fills his scripts with anti-Nazi jabs, which he cleverly gets round the censors. He has three mistresses (Gillain, Kady and Pitarresi) and simply can't choose between them. Around these two men swirl a huge number of significant characters, all involved at different degrees in the war effort--on one side of the other.

Tavernier's earthy approach to the material is what makes it watchable, because it's virtually impossible to keep all the characters and subplots straight. Urgent camera work, gorgeous period design, terrific acting and very clever direction keep us emotionally involved in the characters' lives. These are people who are trying to nonchalantly act like everything's normal, when nothing is! The story is very complicated, touching on just about every level of collaboration and resistance without being preachy. Tavernier approaches it all with a deft, insinuating, revelatory touch, shifting gears frequently. The extended scenes of Devaivre cycling across the countryside are powerfully moving, especially in contrast to the claustrophobic environment in the studio. Or the more freewheeling chaos of a covert operation. And with bursts of real humour in virtually every scene, we are never allowed to relax into standard WWII movie-watching. Confusing yes, but also bracingly fresh and original.

cert 12 themes, language, suspense 30.Jul.02

dir-scr Bertrand Tavernier
scr Jean Cosmos, Bertrand Tavernier
with Jacques Gamblin, Denis Podalydes, Marie Gillain, Marie Desgranges, Charlotte Kady, Maria Pitarresi, Christian Berkel, Laurent Schilling, Richard Sammel, Olivier Brun, Pierre Lacan, Tim Pigott-Smith
release UK 8.Nov.02
02/France 2h50

Watching the reels. Devaivre(Gamblin, centre) in the studio screening room...

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2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall