Safe Conduct (Laissez-passer) ~ (France, 2002) ~ DVD

It was just a coincidence that this moved to #1 in my Netflx queue just after I had watched Bon Voyage – another French film with WWII, and Nazi occupied France as the backdrop. Safe Conduct though, is even better than the former film (which I like a lot). I can’t imagine that Bertrand Tavernier ever made a better film than this one. Some call it his masterpiece. Well when a Director’s director makes a film about film-makers with such reverence, respect, and admiration, then you’re probably looking at a great film. Tavernier vision is sweeping and humanist, and is obviously a labor of love. Tavernier assembled a huge cast and let them loose. The result is a historic gem that runs up to near three hours. I wouldn’t have cut a scene.

The primary film-makers whose story is told in the movie, worked in French cinema during this period (1942-44), and the true story is taken from french assistant director Jean Devaivre’s book. Devaivre (Jacques Gamblin) and the writer Jean Aurenche (Denis Podalydes), worked for a German controlled production company. Because of this, the film remains somewhat controversial – despite the fact that Devaivre worked for the French resistance all the while.

Nazi occupation always believed that they needed to showcase that life  under German rule allowed artists and the people to flourish. Hence, the lukewarm backing of the continuance of french film during the war as well as the show camps that are well known.Tavernier does not gloss over the moral ambiguities here, but he points them out with a steady eye, and without condescension,

Any movie about films or filmmaking already has a leg up with me, so I’m predisposed to praise it. If you’re the same way, this is a must see. If you’re not, don’t be put off by the length and give it a shot.

♦♦♦♦

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