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Darius KADIVAR Reports from Paris


Paris Premiere of Sophie Marceau's WWII Film Marks Iranian-Italian Star Maya Sansa French Debut




"In such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, not to be on the side of the executioners."

- Albert Camus (1913-1960), French writer & philosopher



WWII has played such an important role in shaping the political and ideological dilemma's of the 20th Century for Better and for Worst. It remains the last Global War that involved nearly all the Nations in the world leading to more than 62 million deaths and material casualties of titanic dimensions. If like WWI, the Second Global Military conflict of the 20th century was costly in human lives, it nevertheless morbidly distinguished itself from nearly all the known Battles of History. Previous Wars in Europe had spared civilian lives and in most cases would oppose vast Army's on the Battle Field of common choice. As absurd and old fashioned there seemed nevertheless to be a code of honor in the conduct of War. But the technological advances of the 20th century turned every corner of the planet into a potential battle field. Swords and Spears were soon replaced by Machine Guns and no Knight in Shining Armour could tame and kill the new Iron Dragons called "Tanks". New daunting creatures called Aircrafts and Submarines were to haunt the Skies and the oceans. Men fought no more for glory but for survival. The cruel reality and Horror of the Holocaust was  yet to be revealed in all its horror but only after Nazi Germany collapsed. In the meantime what seemed like a morbid repetition of WWI became an endless war of wills between civilization and tyranny, Democracy and dictatorships. However in parallel a more cynical and cruel warfare was also reinvented that of Espionage where the frontier between Patriotism and Treason was never quite clear. In occupied territories few risked their lives resisting against the enemy. They were branded as Resistant or Terrorists depending on which side you belonged too. In German Occupied France, where the government had accepted collaboration with the "Hun",  a small group of civilians from different political ideologies and convictions decided to unite against Nazi Germany. This melting pot of individuals and profiles that sabotaged German military on their territory were led by former officers of the French Army or charismatic leaders or civil servants who chose to rally the allies. They became known as  "La Resistance de l'Interieur" or "L'Armée des Ombres". They soon chose to join the ranks of the self proclaimed French government in London exile created by General Charles De Gaulle. Thanks to connections with compatriots back home the French Resistance were soon to act and obey according to orders from its Western Allies but recruitment for such perilous operations was often made randomly from people of all ranks or sexes and Women were no exception to the rule. Many played very important roles in this undeclared war on Occupied forces risking their lives in the most difficult circumstances and sacrificing their body and soul in order to save others or contributing to the success of crucial military operations of the allies. History did not acknowledge many of these unknown heroes who often paid the ultimate price with their lives. Not always by lack of interest but because Women more certainly brag less about heroism or War accomplishment in our Macho-Ridden Societies. Fortunately History but also biographies and films seem to remind the younger generation on these modest yet often larger than life heroin's and on a troubled era which gruesome reality can never be surpassed by any work of fiction or even reenactment today.



Sophie Marceau has come a long way since child Star status début in La Boum in the early 80's. French and Hollywood roles have confirmed her Popularity and Box Office Potential. ©imdb


A bevy of resolute gals go undercover against the Nazis to conceal Allied plans for the D-Day invasion in Jean-Paul Salome's  "Female Agents," an old-fashioned period adventure that radiates star wattage but doesn't exactly shine in the script department. The pic however has a slick look and exciting WWII setting that help plaster over its generic feel. Name cast and Gauls' fondness for Resistance tales should result in stellar B.O. on release this month, with certain reach into Francophile markets worldwide.


The Plot was nevertheless inspired by a true heroic partisan leader Lise Villameur, even if the story  conflates fictional main character Louise Desfontaines with the real Villameur and changes the latter's story significantly. Still, as a popular tribute to the tenacity and bravery of these often unsung Resistance heroines, "Female Agents," deserves its fair share of salutes.


In German Occupied France, 5 Brave Girls, risk their lives to save a British Officer from the hands of the Gestapo ©



A nicely shot ambush scene in a steamy French train station segues into the arrival of Louise (Sophie Marceau) in London, where she has a rendezvous with her brother Pierre (Julien Boisselier) and is given orders by spymaster Maurice Buckmaster (Colin David Reese) to round up some female agents. Their mission: Rescue a wounded British geologist (Conrad Cecil) from a hospital in occupied France before the Nazis figure out who he is and torture him for information on D-Day.


Recruitment for this dangerous assignment isn't easy, making blackmail necessary. First on board is tough prostitute Jeanne (Julie Depardieu), followed by young explosives expert Gaelle (Deborah Francois) and, finally, showgirl Suzy (Marie Gillain), whose former relationship with a Nazi officer makes her unwitting bait. Parachuted into France, they meet up with Jewish Countess Maria Luzzato played by Iranian Italian rising Star Maya Sansa and together rescue the geologist just as he's being tortured by order of Col. Heindrich (Moritz Bleibtreu).



Moritz Bleibtreu who plays the sadistic Nazi officer in Jean-Paul Salomé's WWII film has got much exposure in successful International Productions ( including in Steven Spielberg's Munich) ever since he played Malik Shah in Kayvan Mashayekh's American independent epic film: The Keeper: The Legend of Omar Khayyam. ©



Escape isn't so easy, and with Pierre and Gaelle captured, the agents must work to outwit the Germans and pluck off the colonel. A subway-station scene displays the most skilled moment, as sightlines intersect and the ensuing gun battle foils plans and further reduces numbers.


Though its main focus is on Louise, the film is really an ensembler with only the most basic, broad-stroke characterizations. Jeanne is the hard-nosed hooker looking to bail until she's converted to the cause; innocent Gaelle is sustained by a faith echoed in an unnecessarily sappy coda; lovelorn Suzy musters the courage to turn Mata Hari. The script isn't nuanced enough to avoid a deja-vu feeling.


Keeping her face in a fixed expression through most scenes, Marceau (also in Salome's "Belphagor") plays best when confronting the underlying tensions between Louise and Pierre. Bleibtreu makes a less stereotypical Nazi in a performance that would sit comfortably in wartime romances from the period. English supporting actors recite stilted lines more in keeping with BBC takeoffs than proper dramas.


Phew !,Its Only a Movie: The Beautiful Female Cast of Les Femmes De L'Ombre at Paris Premiere :Top ( Julie Depardieu, Sophie Marceau and Maya Sansa) Bottom ( Sophie Marceau, Maya Sansa, Marie Gillain and Deborah Francois) ©



WWII flavor is handsomely captured, combining richly textured studio shooting with location work (including real Paris boulevards ( Rue de Rivoli, Place Vendome) or the Chateau de Saint Germain En Laye in the outskirts of Paris draped in swastikas as during German-Occupied France). The movie also catches the look of '40s color newsreels, that give the movie a  historically accurate background.



From 1941 onwards Iran became an Ally of the anti-Nazi front during WWII. It also became a vital crossroad for allied troops known as a Bridge to Victory. ( Top) A  small unit of the Iranian Armed Forces participated to the V-Day Victory Parade on London's Oxford Street on 08/06/1946. ( Bottom) As well as In front of the Queen Of England and Winston Churchill. See Larger Photos © pictory








Authors Notes:


WARNING :PG-13 for Violence and Nudity.


Official Website of French Release

Trailer of Les Femmes de L'ombre


Official Website of German Star:  Moritz Bleibtreu

Persian Italian Star Maya Sansa is represented by CinéArt Agency : Contact info on UniFrance


Recommended Readings:


Tehran Mon Amour by Darius KADIVAR

Zero Degree Turn: Iran TV's Holocaust Series (Times Online)

Ladies of the French Resistance By Emma-Jane Kirby (BBC)

SECRET LIVES: Maya Sansa and Moritz Bleibtreu join WWII epic film by Darius KADIVAR

The Persian Bella Ragazza: Maya Sansa to Conquer European Cinema by Darius KADIVAR
Lessons from the Keeper by Darius KADIVAR

Iranian Pioneers in French New Wave Cinema by Darius KADIVAR



About the Author: Darius KADIVAR is a Freelance Journalist, Film Historian, and Media Consultant. He is international Correspondent for OCPC Magazine and contributes to the IC publications of The Middle East. and Persian Heritage.

... Payvand News - 07/22/08 ... --

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