french films > The Sorrow and the Pity

The Sorrow and the Pity

The Sorrow and the Pity

The Sorrow and the Pity

Review score: * * * * *


year: 1971

colour: yes


director: Marcel Ophlus

runtime: 251

Part One of the film, The Collapse, has an extended interview with Pierre Mendès-France. He had been jailed by the Vichy government on charges of desertion, but escaped from jail to join Charles de Gaulle's forces operating out of England, and later served as Prime Minister of liberated France. The center of Part Two, The Choice, revolves around Christian de la Mazière, who is something of a counterpoint to Mendès-France. Whereas Mendès-France was a French Jewish political figure who joined the Resistance, de la Mazière, an aristocrat who embraced Fascism, was one of 7,000 French youth to fight on the Eastern Front wearing German uniforms. The film shows the French people's response to occupation as heroic, pitiable, and monstrous, sometimes all at once. The post-war humiliation of the women who served (or were married to) Vichy men perhaps gave the strongest mix of all three. Maurice Chevalier's 'Sweepin' the Clouds Away' is the theme tune of the film. The film is referenced in Woody Allen's film Annie Hall and in the Angel episode Conviction.


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