Monday, March 23, 2020

Rescue vs. revenge in Jonathan Jakubowicz's intelligent and immersive Holocaust-themed bio-pic, RESISTANCE

Yes, this is a bio-pic, but the biography we get here is a quite interesting look at that of the late/great world-famous mime, Marcel Marceau. For many of us, including those of the senior years, M. Marceau will have been known as only as a mime. Turns out, however, according to the new movie RESISTANCE, written and directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz, Marceau was part of the French resistance to the Nazi takeover of France during World War II -- during which he helped save the lives of hundreds of children.

As the Venezuelan-born Señor Jakubowicz (show at right) tells it, in his tale as-close-to-truthful-as-an-entertaining-bio-pic-can-manage-it, Marcel -- born with the name Mangel, which he only later changed to Marceau -- was a Kosher butcher's son chaffing at his job assisting his father in the shop in Strasbourg, France. In the evenings he performs at a local cabaret, entertaining the patrons with his funny imitations, à la Charlie Chaplin, of the increasingly powerful Adolf Hitler (the film begins on Kristallnacht, 1938).

Marcel is played, surprisingly (to me, at least) and quite strongly by Jesse Eisenberg (shown above and below), who does a bang-up job doing mime routines, especially for the Jewish children he's seen training early on regarding how best

to hide from the Nazis, and he is expectedly excellent (when is he not?) in all other regards. Even his faux French accent is surprisingly good. Though he's no fighter, the need to save Jewish children -- initially in Germany, soon all over Europe -- has Marcel helping the French Boy Scouts and eventually joining the French Resistance, while getting up to the kind of derring-do that you'd expect from the most thrilling adventure film.

One of the great strengths of Resistance, however, is how it shows Marcel's need to place rescue above revenge, even though there is plenty of cause for the latter throughout the course of this two-hour-but-never-draggy film. The movie refuses to become an exercise in "revenge porn," in the manner of the new Amazon Hunters series, which my colleague Lee Liberman recently reviewed. (TrustMovies agrees with her mixed assessment of the series: that "the bits and pieces outweigh the whole.")

Here, the whole is relatively synonymous with the pieces, as Jakubowicz has filled his film with exciting events alternating with quieter scenes that help fill in the characters of Marcel, his family and the children that he and the other resistance fighters try to help.

The Nazi regime pretty much coalesces in the character of the notorious Klaus Barbie, here played well and even relatively subtly by Matthias Schweighöfer (above), shown as a "family man," though not above torturing a priest, let alone flaying alive a woman resistance fighter (in front of her sister, yet). Blood and gore are kept to a minimum, though the acts themselves are spelled out in all their horror.

In the role of the young woman resistance member whom Marcel loves, Clémence Poésy (above, right) registers strongly, as do Edgar Ramírez (below, right), as the father, and Bella Ramsey (below, left), who plays his daughter, the soon-orphaned child with whom Marcel and his brother first bond.

If, overall, the film retains the feel of a somewhat standard bio-pic, the fact that most Americans will be learning a good deal more here than they ever knew about mime Marcel Marceau and see Jesse Eisenberg stretch his acting wings another notch, all coupled to the theme of rescue vs. revenge, makes Resistance a Holocaust-themed movie worth a visit.

From IFC Films and running 121 minutes, the film was to have opened theatrically this coming Friday, March 27, but will now be available via digital platforms and cable VOD -- for purchase and/or rental.

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