Au Revoir Les Enfants

Louis Malle’s polished, sentimental memory piece (1987)about his glancing brush with the Nazi holocaust while attending a French Catholic boarding school in 1944works mightily to flatter the audience’s sense of compassion and virtue. The plot involves the hero’s growing friendship with a brilliant Jewish boy hiding incognito at the school (along with a few other Jews and members of the French resistance), whose identity is uncovered by the gestapo. In keeping with the more enlightened, liberal brand of French anti-Semitism, which depicts Jews as cute, lovable, and exotic rather than venal and sinister, the featured victim is treated as a rare objet d’art rather than an ordinary kid. Malle is certainly sincere in his efforts to describe the overall milieu accurately, and the film is less obnoxious than his pious Lacombe, Lucien (1973), which dealt with a related theme. With Raphael Fejto and Gaspard Manesse, especially good as Malle’s alter ego. In French with subtitles. 103 min. (JR)

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