19 August 2001 | Geofbob
Near perfect cinematic satire
Set in the period before, during and just after WWII, Jacques Audiard's brilliant and witty satire is about a compulsive impostor, Albert Dehousse, who so successfully convinces the French authorities that he fought in the resistance that he is made an officer in the army occupying Germany. It is not the easiest of viewing for non-French speakers who have to follow the sub-titles, but is well worth the trouble.
The movie's timeframe flashes back and forward; and director Jacques Audiard tells the story via a number of different devices, including normally acted sequences, voice-over, mock documentary interviews, newsreel footage, and even shots of the orchestra playing the background music. Mathieu Kassowitz portrays adult Albert as someone who is superficially engaging, but is empty inside, and has to consciously learn and then act out almost every gesture or emotional response. Like the film, Albert consists of disparate fragments, skillfully edited together into a convincing whole.
There is probably a pointed message here for the movie's home audience, about the way France as a whole has exaggerated WWII resistance, and swept collaboration under the carpet. But the film raises general questions about how we play roles and falsify our past histories in everyday life; it also reminds us that impostors, including some so-called celebrities, depend on our gulliblity for their success.