Marcel Ophuls directs Pierre Mendès France, Anthony Eden and André Harris in this four and half hour documentary to investigate France’s collaboration with Germany after they surrendered during WWII.
All these talking heads are dead now. And as Ophul’s very rarely signposts who we listening to and whether they collaborated or resisted it can feel very overwhelming to start. Part of that must be down to our own historical ignorance, unable to recognise key players in French politics who would have no doubt been infamous 50 years ago. But eventually you get attuned to the rhythm of the monologues and the Pathe newsreel footage… and begin to realise that is the point. Nobody was sure who was against the Nazis and who was for Vichy? Some probably even had their choice made for them. As we go deeper into their lives over four years of occupation you begin to interrogate them less and yourself more and more. Would you submit or even profit from the fascist regime who may have potentially become your long term rulers? Or would you have risked everything and fought back? Watching this I don’t know how anyone who wasn’t there could stand in judgement. And someone please make a biopic of trans British spy Denis Rake! Pretty please!
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