Safe Conduct Movie Review

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French director (and cineaste favorite) Bertrand Tavernier is 20 years out from his masterpiece, Coup de torchon. Since then, most of his work has been forgettable, if not awful ('Round Midnight being the exception), and Tavernier seemed to be scraping bottom in 1999 with his oh-my-God-how-uninteresting-can-one-movie-be It All Starts Today.

Tavernier's 2002 entry, Safe Conduct, starts out with considerable promise, but it's ultimately a squandered effort.

Based on filmmaker Jean-Devaivre's memoirs, the movie is one of those insidery looks at show business -- in this case, French filmmaking during the Nazi occupation in the early 1940s. Jacques Gamblin plays Devaivre (who, bizarrely, died just two weeks ago), struggling to remain both in the film business and alive while the Nazis breathe down his neck. His compatriots have it even worse, ending up in jail or worse. Devaivre must also deal with a family that's coming apart while trying to aid the French Resistance, too.

Sounds good, but the follow-through is weak. Tavernier takes nearly three very lazy hours to tell what ought to be a tight, taut, quick-paced adventure film. Tavernier's fatal flaw is letting the film bog down in studio politics and the filmmaking process, something which hasn't carried a "serious" film since The Player. Even when the Nazis are closing in on Devaivre, there's no sense of pulpish suspense: We know he'll get away with his conspiracies. Maybe if the Nazis weren't played on the level of Hogan's Heroes villains that might have been avoided.

Ultimately Tavernier's work has some merit in asking whether Devaivre and his compatriots did the right thing in basically working for the enemy and creating "art" in a time of war. Was there something more helpful to The Cause they could have done? Devaivre himself says no, over the closing credits. You be the judge.

Aka Laissez-passer .

Cast & Crew

Producer : Frédéric Bourboulon,

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Comments

Safe Conduct Rating

" Weak "

Rating: NR, 2002

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