Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2011 9:06 pm 
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Kristen Scott Thomas in Sarah's Key

Sarah's Key, (French title Elle s'appelait Sarah, 111 min., half or one third in English), is a little film about the Holocaust in France and its aftermath (and denial) with a present-day follow-up in the US. Directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenne and starring Kristen Scott Thomas, Niels Arestrup, Dominique Frot and others, it contemplates events of World War II in France through the eyes of a Julia Jarmond, an inquisitive journalist of mixed background with a French husband. As Julia, Scott Thomas does a perfect American accent this time -- Julia grew up at least partly in America -- as well as speaking her usual good French. She is a journalist now married to a French businessman, Édouard Tezac (Michel Duchaussoy), and living and working in Paris. As her story begins, she working on a long magazine article about the deportation of Jews in 1942 by the Vichy government. Her investigations reveal that her French in-laws' longtime residence in the Marais has a questionable past to which they are connected, a past that we are allowed to witness. Julia's story is intermingled with intense flashbacks to 1942 and Sarah Starzynski (Mélusine Mayance), a young Jewish girl taken away with her mother from their Paris flat. She hides her little brother in a closet and leaves him behind. Julia comes to discover that this vacated flat was taken over immediately by her French in-laws, who have occupied it ever since.

This film, with its sense of complicity and powerlessness, reviews scenes that all the French need to know about, especially the far-worse-than-the-Superdome roundup and temporary confinement of thousands of Jews known as "La rafle du Vélodrome d'Hiver" or "Vél d'Hiv." (Rafle means "roundup.") We learn, if we did not know before, that the Vichy government sent off 77,000 Jews from France to their deaths. (This event is the focus of another new film, Rose Bosch's La Rafle, released March 10, 2010, seven months before the French release of Sarah's Key.)

The screenplay was adapted by Serge Joncour and Gilles Paquet-Brenner from the bestselling novel by Tatiana de Rosnay, a journalist and writer with a French mother and English father.

I'll publish a longer review of Sarah's Key on its US release date, July 22, 2011.

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