Communal Nurturing and Healing Among Friends of Scars from t
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 07/17/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"'Un monde presque paisible' (Almost Peaceful) is a touching little film that keeps its story so quietly gentle that the effect is genuinely memorable. Director and screenwriter Michel Deville based this engrossing movie on a novel by Robert Bober: it is a unique vision and sharing of how Jews recovered from WW II.
Set in 1946 in Paris, the owner of a tailoring business seeks out Jews who have either returned from the camps or have been in hiding, or were part of the Resistance, who by luck escaped the fate of so many others, or were outcast otherwise during the horrors of WW II and offers them employment and emotional support. These are healthy people physically: emotionally the damage is deep and requires tender nurturing to start the road to health. The story unfolds slowly and allows us to witness the means by which each of these victims help each other heal and regain self confidence and learn to live in a world without the fear of extermination. The movement of the story is one of emerging trust and the director and actors each bring to the concept a fine sense of history and of the manner in which fellowman can coexist with a little help from their friends.
The cast is uniformly excellent and the atmospheric cinematography by Andre Diot is stunningly beautiful and reminiscent of the post war France period. The musical score is solely dependent on string quartets and matches the intimacy of the message of the film. In French with English subtitles. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, July 06
An Original Look at Life in Paris After World War II
Timothy Kearney | Hull, MA United States | 03/29/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"ALMOST PEACEFUL is a film I stumbled upon and one I soon discovered a film with a simplicity that is moving. It tells the story of a small group of people working in a tailor shop in Paris after World War II. Most are Jewish and each had a different experience during the war from being a member of the resistance to suffering in the concentration camps. We meet a wide array of characters ranging form early adulthood to close to late in life: two younger men who escaped when a French police officer attempted to turn him over to the Nazis, and another who longs for love but seems afraid to experience it so he spends time with a call girl who falls in love with him. We feel for the man who waits for his family to return knowing it will never happen. A woman who steels soap but has a true passion for creating love matches adds a bit of humor. All the characters are connected through husband and wife who stay together and seem to be a happy couple but secretly love someone else.
The title of the film is perfect. There is a sense that the war is over and life will return to some kind of normalcy, perhaps even be better. Yet there is also an uneasiness. While there is a slight toleration of Jews in France in 1946, everyone knows it will not last. The only guarantee of any happiness will be in the community the group forms, and somehow we know it will happen.
The film is enjoyable because of its delightful characters, and in some ways it is a film that could be called more a character sketch than a story. It gives the viewer a glimpse of life that in 1946 is all but forgotten and reminds us of both the scars that were a part of the aftermath of World War II and also the faint hope that was real as well.
Lee Armstrong | Winterville, NC United States | 03/20/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"European cinema can be a startling experience for U.S. viewers. In "Almost Peaceful" we seem to drop into the lives of the characters, flow with them for some time, and then drop out at the end of the film. Even in this serious/comic film, there seemed to be little build. That said, Simon Abkarian who played so well with Joan Allen in "Yes" is a Jewish tailor trying to start up his shop and rebuild his life after World War II's Hitler era. He employs a group of Jews who are also trying to rebuild their lives. His relationship with his wife Lea played by Zabou Breitman appears passionless and uninspired. They keep reading letters from their children received from camp. Lea has a crush on Charles, played by Denis Podalydes with such sadness as he longs for his family who apparently died in the camps. Vincent Elbaz plays a tailor and actor who has high energy and love of life, as he and his wife celebrate the birth of a second son. Stanislas Merhar plays the young tailor Maurice who has difficulty with romantic commitment and frequents a prostitute. Malik Zidi gives a good performance as the young tailor Joseph who the others help by continually re-doing his work as he puts buttons on the wrong side and other mistakes. Joseph eventually decides to work in the camp with children and the film ends. Michel Deville won the French Academy of Cinema's Best Director award in 1985 for "Peril en la Demeure." "Almost Peaceful" is an interesting peace, frequently moving, but one that from time to time left me wondering what was happening in the story. For instance, there is one fairytale sequence about a boy in a forest who breathes through a button in his neck. I'm not sure why. The film appears to be the characters' journey to find joy in the wake of profound tragedy. Enjoy!"
Healing from the Scars of War
Amos Lassen | Little Rock, Arkansas | 08/12/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
Healing from the Scars of War
Amos Lassen and Cinema Pride
First Run Features has just released "Almost Peaceful" a film about the Holocaust set in the period immediately after the war and following a group of young Jewish Parisians as they try to restart their lives and find happiness after they have been subjected to some of the worst horrors ever known to man. This amazing film was directed by Michel Deville and admirably so. The period of time which is the focus of the film is one that has been virtually unexplored on film.
Co-workers in a tailor shop in Paris in 1946 have physically recovered from having been locked up during the war but their mental states are wrecked. Jewish tailor Jacob and his wife Leah are trying to reestablish their business. Albert hires six people to work for him even though business is very slow and all of these workers with them exception of Jacqueline are Jewish who have survived the Nazi occupation. As they slowly and tentatively get to know each other, they begin the arduous task of rebuilding their self-confidence, their self-esteem and their faith in mankind. They each have to do this in their own way.
Each of the characters is a survivor in some way whether from the camps, from hiding, from having escaped, from joining the resistance or from having compromised with the occupiers. They are all fairly youthful and this was the demographic of the survivors.
The smallest thing ignites terrible memories and this is how they suffer. During the war Albert and Lea and the children were separated. Now back together, we see that Albert has a big heart and his shop is populated by other survivors. One worker was a resistance fighter, another was liberated from the camps but his wife has not yet been found and all of the others have in some way suffered at the hands of the occupation. Albert, himself, is sad but not despondent and in his own way, he seeks to regain the joy of being alive.
Among the eclectic mixture are several young men--one a promising writer, another a klutz with a big heart and even larger feet and hands. As the plot moves along, each character is fully developed as we learn of the emotional damage each has suffered. Each character gradually adapts to being truly alive and we in the audience cannot help but cheer for the progress they make.
"Almost Peaceful", the title of the film, reflects the reality that these people deal with daily. The Nazis may be gone but the memories remain, the collaborators have been punished but the suspects still mingle in society. When one of the men tries to get permanent papers from the police, he is told quite coldly that the officer taking care of the matter will do everything in his power to thwart his application.
Part of the beauty of "Almost Peaceful" is that it shows how ordinary people begin a new life after earth shaking experiences. The role of children--both expected and hoped for--are a central theme of the film. It is the beautiful acting in the film is what really makes this movie so special. Subtle charm and humor shows the vibrancy of life which is overshadowed by horror. The cinematography is stunning and the musical background is intimate as it presents a gorgeous melodic accompaniment to an extremely fascinating film. Here is history which shows that we can all coexist and that it is that much easier with a little help from friends.