DVD Review: A FRENCH VILLAGE/UN VILLAGE FRANÇAIS (French Television Series on MHz Releasing)

by Dale Reynolds on July 1, 2017

in CD-DVD

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HOPE FOR A FRENCH VILLAGE

In season five of this extraordinary historical series, it’s 1944 and the Germans are losing the war and are beginning to leave occupied France. The collaborative Vichy Government, which semi-ruled the southern part of France (the zone libre) as well as the French colonies in North Africa, was—until this season—headquartered in the small city of Vichy, 220 miles south of Paris.

In the continuing saga of the citizens of this small (fictional) town of Villaneuve, situated in the southern section of France relatively close to the Swiss border, the village’s doctor, Daniel Larcher (Robin Renucci), no longer the mayor, is constantly beset by the German army and the SS, as well as by the Free French resistance and the right-wing militias. His ex-wife, Hortense (Audrey Fleurot), attempts to flee with her German SS commander lover, Heinrich (Richard Semmel).

Marie (Nade Dieu), married to the town’s school principal, Bériot (François Loriquet) has a lesbian liaison, which she properly regrets, and watches her previous lover, the gravely-wounded German soldier, Kurt (Samuel Theis), die under the hand of Bériot. The businessman-collaborator, Raymond Schwartz (Thierry Godard), proves himself a French patriot after all.

Other partisans, whom we’ve met in previous episodes, are discovered and some are executed. The Jews have mostly been deported, although the conflicted head of the village police force, Jean Marchetti (Nicholas Gob) manages to save his Jewish lover and her child from slaughter. Fortunately for them, the arrival of the American forces marks the beginning of the end of Vichy Government and the German occupation.

The writing, directing and acting is outstanding, as well as the cinematography of the small villages surrounding Villaneuve, the full forests and shimmering lakes, and the manner of illustrating the way people lived during those horrendous times. Thanks also to the art and production designers of the entire series.

For us Americans, it has to be the first time we’ve ever encountered a series that explains the times, the events and the political results of this dreadful occupation of France. The show’s creators and main writers, Frédéric Krivine, Emmanuel Daucé, and Philippe Triboit, kept an obviously cool hand on it, allowing the show to grow naturally, based on historical truths.

Season Five is as exciting as the previous four, and one can only hope that the concluding Season Six (which has been released, but I haven’t seen it yet) will be a glorious climax of the events leading up to the end of the war in the Spring of 1945. Stay tuned!

A French Village / Un village français
Season Five
released June 7, 2016
4 DVD set | 587 minutes
available at MHz Releasing or Amazon

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