Thursday, March 26, 2020

Movie with Abe: Resistance

Directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz
Released March 27, 2020

There are many stories of incredible bravery and survival during the Holocaust as so many were brutally and senselessly killed. Fighting back was not possible for everyone, but there were those who found ways that they were able to subvert extermination efforts and save the lives of others. Many of those stories have been dramatized and turned into movies, and there’s also often a greater legacy that the featured survivors went on to create for themselves and for those they affected. Audiences may be surprised to learn about the path of a young Marcel Marceau, who was an active member of the French Resistance during World War II.

Marcel (Jesse Eisenberg) is the son of Charles Mangel (Karl Markovics), a kosher butcher in Strasbourg, France in 1940. An aspiring performer, Marcel is admonished by his father for his pursuits of less serious aims. He is approached by his cousin Georges (Geza Rohrig), a member of the French Resistance, when a group of orphaned Jewish children arrive in need of guardianship and entertainment. Marcel’s comic abilities make him a perfect fit, and his quick thinking in dangerous situations prove crucial to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts cover that helps them hide these children in plain sight.

When Marcel first interacts with the children and delights them with his playful nature, this film feels like it might be similar to “Life is Beautiful,” showcasing the humor and positivity necessary to survive the unthinkable. Included is the expected portrayal of the Nazi pursuers as inhumane and eager to torture those they deem inferior simply because they can, which is typically disturbing. The dramatization of real-life events is felt through close calls and unlikely victories, the key ingredients of any film that wants to depict more than just history as it precisely happened.

Eisenberg is an actor known for his awkwardness, which makes him a decent physical fit for the role of Marcel, who is an endearing protagonist once he overcomes his desire not to be perceived as a clown. The presence of Rohrig and Markovics, stars of the Oscar-winning Holocaust films “Son of Saul” and “The Counterfeiters,” respectively, lend this film some credibility, as does a brief top-billed appearance from Ed Harris as famed General George S. Patton. This film is hardly a comprehensive or resounding biopic of Marcel, but serves as a relatively standard and affirming showcase of endurance and perseverance thanks in no small part to its protagonist’s attitude and talents.


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