Thursday, April 12, 2018

Two boys flee Nazis in France

Although it involves French Jews and World War II, A Bag of Marbles registers as an involving but minor addition to the Holocaust canon. Directed by Christian Duguay from a 1973 autobiographical novel by Joseph Joffo, this French import plays like a lavishly produced boys’ adventure -- albeit one centered on evading Nazis that would dispatch two brothers to German death factories. A backdrop of anti-Semitism and fear gives the movie an extra boost: The brothers constantly are on guard against revealing their identities. A Bag of Marbles is not without sentiment, but it sounds enough realistic notes to keep from losing focus, and the movie’s young stars (Dorian Le Clech and Batyste Fleurial) are never less than convincing. The brothers meet with both kindness and danger after their father, a barber played by Patrick Bruel, tells them the family must split up in order to travel south without detection. Bruel’s character hopes that the family, which also includes a mother and two older brothers, will be reunited in Nice, safer than Paris at the time. At one point, the brothers are aided by a priest who must convince a skeptical German officer that the boys have been duly baptized. Joseph, really the movie’s main character, eventually takes up residence with the family of a Nazi collaborator. The collaborator doesn't know Joseph is Jewish. A Bag of Marbles includes little graphic footage of the kind that can appear in many films with Holocaust connections, but it does show what it’s like to become a stranger in one’s own country simply because of the group into which one happened to be born: The movie shows us, with some success, what it might have been like to be a child facing such sustained horror.

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