Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2016 6:02 pm 
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A story of pregnant nuns after World War II

There isn't much violence till forty minutes into Anne Fontaine's film, when the French Red Cross doctor Mathilde Beaulieu (Lou de Laâge of Breathe) is stopped by Russian soldiers, thrown down, and is on the point of being raped when she's rescued by a Russian officer. But rape by Russian soldiers has happened to dozens of the Polish nuns Mathilde is trying to help, and seven of them have now become pregnant in this film dramatizing actual events in Poland in December 1945 after the end of the War when real-life doctor Madeleine Pauliac braved personal danger and religious objections to save just such a situation. The Benedictine nuns, who are not supposed to show their bodies or be touched, face scandal that might destroy their order if events are disclosed. Mathilde is joined in the effort by Samuel (a less wispy than usual Vincent Macaigne), a French doctor. The context is complicated by the fact that Samuel is Jewish, the new Polish communist government isn't friendly to religious orders, and Mathilde herself is a strongly free-thinking daughter of leftists.

The Innocents/Les innocentes, 115 mins., debuted at Sundance where it was reviewed in Variety (as Agnus Dei) by Justin Chang, who called it "her best film in years." Released in France 10 Feb. 2016, with enthusiastic critical reception (AlloCiné press rating 3.9/24 reviews; viewers' rating 4.1). It has been acquired by Picturehouse. Adèle Haenel was originally attached to play Mathilde. Shown in the San Francisco International Film Festival, where it was screened for this review. This is a preview; a full review will appear later. US limited theatrical release begins 1 July 2016. San Francisco, 8 July.

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