L’oeil de Vichy

France, 1993 (Claude Chabrol; 1h 50m)

The 1940s and the occupation produced some extraordinary drama on film, such as Le Corbeau (1943), but our selection for this period is propaganda revisited as documentary.

The fall of France per Claude Chabrol: Le Ligne de Démarcation had the Vichy rule as a moody thriller, here’s the documentary version. The 1940 invasion and Pétain’s ascension are sketched concisely as the “passage from logic,” the deluge of newsreels, hate films, and speeches illustrates the propaganda filling French theaters. Official reports portray Vichy as a booming economy at the cusp of a New World Order, Europe’s “great crusade against bolshevism” is heralded, the “Jewish issue” is to be dealt with “scientifically.” The litany of good cheer is cracked by sinister intimations, from the matter-of-fact announcement of civilians being slaughtered as punishment for a “terrorist’s” actions to people being shipped off to camps for “vacation.” (Clandestine code messages are sneaked past collaborators.) Major Scapini, with darkened monocle like Mabuse himself, talks of reconstructions while running his digits over Braille codes, soldiers spell out “Vive Pétain” with their bodies in a militarist perversion of Gance’s anti-war image in J’Accuse. A cartoon finds Mickey, Donald and Popeye leading a raid on French homes, Lubitsch’s great joke in To Be or Not to Be is garbled over the airlines (“Actors like Jean Marais and Alain Cuny murdering Racine’s works would be no less sacrilegious”). Chabrol the Cahiers movie critic is alarmed by a commercial of film stock being melted into nail polish, Chabrol the chronicler of human ambiguity is fascinated by an overwhelmed nation’s struggle between acquiescence and resistance. Narrated by Michel Bouquet.

Fernando F. Croce
Date: June 22nd, 2020
Time: 9:30am
Finishes at: 11:20am

  • DVD