Suite Francais

This poster gives away a bit of the plot. She's cuddling zee German!

This poster gives away a bit of the plot. She’s cuddling zee German!

Warming to the wartime romance theme, the next film I decided to watch on my October round-the-world plane medley was Suite Francais, which despite the title was a Hollywood production. Michelle Williams what can I say? You are a most fantastic actress, and apart from the misguided “My week with Marilyn” this movie continues your fine form. The plot is ostensibly a romance between the lonely Lucille (Williams), who’s husband is a POW in Germany, and a lonely German officer (played by some German bloke) billeted with her and her scary mother-in-law (Kristen Scott Thomas playing it beautifully) in their pretty manor house. Really though the film is about how a close-knit community copes when an outside influence comes to bear (topical I think) and captures the class-ridden hierarchy of French village life very well. We all tend to think if the Nazis came to town and occupied us we’d be the heroes, blowing up railway lines and sabotaging the Onion soup etc, but this film shows it’s never that simple. It also shows that in order to resist effectively, you have to engage and collaborate with the oppressor to some extent. Just like in an office environment.

Another reason to watch this movie is that Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian only gave it 2 stars and said it was a bit dull. You know when he doesn’t like something it’s potentially good, as this is the film critic who gave the woeful god-bothering allegory “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” 5 stars. His review of Suite Francais is classic of the type with a series of breathtakingly stupid statements like: “The movie version’s final words sonorously remark that the war would continue for four more years – not something Némirovsky could have known.” The Nemirovsky he refers to is Irene, the original author of the novel on which the film is based, who died at the hands of the Germans in 1942. The manuscript was later found and only published in 2004 and is apparently worth a read. Presumably as a film critic Bradshaw is familiar with “adaptations” and “versions” and “screenplays” which kind of allow the film maker to do exactly what the fuck they like, whether for good or ill, and in this case they are clearly looking back with a bit of hindsight. Durrrrrrrr. Anyway, don’t worry about Bradshaw, watch the movie and the extraordinary way that Michelle Williams manages to be sexy without really being that sexy. The only thing I really didn’t dig was the mournful piano playing. I know it’s what brings them together but If I’d made the film I would have had them bonding over a card game or something, to avoid it.

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