Movie Review: The Round-Up

By Peter Calder

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'The Round-Up' is a film that goes right to the heart of a shameful episode in French history, writes Peter Calder. Photo / Supplied
'The Round-Up' is a film that goes right to the heart of a shameful episode in French history, writes Peter Calder. Photo / Supplied

This classy if slightly schematic French drama opens with a slide reminding us that all the events depicted, "even the most extreme", actually happened. It underlines writer-director Bosch's sensible decision to make her drama out of the well-researched stories of a handful of specific individuals.

The title refers to the mass arrest in Paris, on July 16 and 17 1942, of more than 13,000 Jews.

In hindsight, it was an operation of stunning efficiency, though its aftermath was a hint of the horrors to come: they were held in a sports stadium for five days, with pitiably inadequate food, water and medical care.

Before long, the adults were transported to extermination camps; the children later took the same dreadful trip, having been told they were being reunited with their parents. Of the 25 who returned, none was a child.

Jo Weissman, now in his 80s - he makes a cameo apperance in the film - came back because he escaped with a pal from a transit camp.

Bosch tells her story from 11-year-old Jo's point of view, only occasionally, and with powerful impact, zooming out to take in the big picture. Laurent (the avenging Shosanna from Inglourious Basterds) and Reno play respectively a Protestant nurse and a Jewish doctor who struggle to bring a semblance of humanity to a living hell.

The so-called "Vel d'Hiv" round-up was a powerful dramatic element in the excellent Sarah's Key, released in April, but this film depicts it much more directly.

That's not to say it's unbearably bleak. Handsomely designed and slickly assembled, it is, if anything, a slightly sanitised version of reality. A lot of the action has the uncomfortably expository feel of a history lesson: episodes depicting, say, Parisians' prejudice (and kindnesses), or the ingratiating French police are crudely drawn and scenes involving Hitler's inner circle are faintly ridiculous.

But Bosch cuts smoothly between her different narrative threads and her child actors are fantastic. It's a film that goes right to the heart of a shameful episode in French history.

Stars: 3/5
Cast: Gad Elmaleh, Hugo Leverdez, Jean Reno, Melanie Laurent, Sylvie Testud
Director: Rose Bosch
Running time: 120 mins
Rating: M (violence, offensive language) In French with English subtitles
Verdict: Handsome and powerful

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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