Current Issue #488

Film Review:

Jonathan Jakubowicz’s biopic study of Marcel Marceau’s dangerous work with the French Resistance during the Second World War occasionally feels uneven and forced, and yet it’s a tale worth telling – and celebrating.

The Venezuelan Jakubowicz’s UK/French/German/American co-production is a bit of a continental mish-mash, with stars from America, France and elsewhere all speaking English and Prague frequently standing in for Germany, and yet it’s a suspenseful, moving tale anyway, with Jesse Eisenberg mostly disguising his New York-ness well.

Leaping from the shocking events of ‘Kristallnacht’ (9 – 10 November 1938), to General Patton (Ed Harris) addressing the American troops at Nuremberg in 1945, and then back to 1938 and  Strasbourg where a young Marcel Mangel (Eisenberg) does an underappreciated nightclub impression of Charlie Chaplin, this at first depicts our protagonist as a flake, misunderstood and mocked by his family. When he’s compelled to help with truckloads of displaced, grieving children whose parents have been killed by the Nazis, he initially goes along to impress Emma (Clémence Poésy), but his mind is soon changed when the full horror of the kids’ plights hits him. It’s a powerful scene, well-handled by Jakubowicz and Eisenberg, and is perhaps intended to resonate beyond this time and this movie, and shake us up about our own complacency right at this very moment.

Emma is with the French Resistance and Marcel has no choice but to join and risk his life, and in the years to come, he changes his surname to Marceau, causes major disruptions for the Reich and tries hard to keep the children happy with the comic pratfalls and inspired miming that would later make him world-famous. Some of these sequences are awkward, but Jesse and Clémence are fine, although the Nazis that continually come for them are a shade over-the-top, including no less than Klaus Barbie himself, as played by Matthias Schweighöfer, who’s introduced beating one of his colleagues to death for supposedly being homosexual. Yes, Barbie was a monster, but he wasn’t quite this, ahem, ripe, surely?

Jakubowicz (a filmmaker of Polish-Jewish descent who serves as writer, director, co-producer and co-editor here) certainly feels strongly about this material, so it’s a shame that he loses his grip at times. And yet it’s still a story that should be told, especially as Marceau and his colleagues helped save some 10,000 children during the war, a little fact that would have impressed Oskar Schindler no end.

Reviewer Rating

Resistance (M) is currently available through Foxtel, with a wider digital release from 29 June

DM Bradley

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