12 January 2011 | mjneu59
the war that never ended
Claude Berri scratches a few old war wounds in this complex but absorbing drama, set in a small, heavily damaged French town during the period of deprivation and deadly political power struggles following the German occupation. The conflict had united several rivals against a common enemy, but afterward there was influence to be won and scores to be settled, and the question of who resisted and who collaborated would lead to more than one expedient death. It takes a while for the film to introduce all the characters and conflicting loyalties, but once underway it develops considerable steam before the inevitable tragic conclusion. The irony is that the people shown to suffer most are those without any politics at all, like the half-mad, aspiring poet played by Gérard Depardieu, who can chew his way through scenery like no other actor. His unrestrained performance adds an energetic lift to the otherwise thoughtful drama; by contrast, his co-stars in the excellent ensemble cast appear to be sleepwalking.