Some of the black humor underlying inadvertent double-entendres is mind-boggling. Solange, catching up with a staffer at Evian, asks diplomatically whether many former deportees are on the premises this season. The woman replies, “You haven’t been here for two years – there’s a natural process of elimination.” A popular mineral water slogan known to every soul in Gaul is “Drink and eliminate!” Solange improvises a manic commercial of her own.
Then there’s the moment when Solange lowers herself into a tub and the young attendant says, “I’m going to activate the carbon gas now – is that OK?” What isn’t even touched upon is the fact that these health resorts are in Evian and Vichy. During the war, Vichy instituted harsher anti-Jew laws than Germany did, yet France never offered reparations to victims of roundups and deportation.
(Germany began this form of reparation after 1952.)
A clotheshorse and a bit of a ham, Solange hasn’t the slightest trepidation about singing, dancing or crying for her son’s camera. Joy mixed with guilt at being alive, at having survived when others perished, is omnipresent. Solange’s
true story of her mother’s heroic system for shielding a memento throughout the camp ordeal is magnificent.
A questionable device is the addition of Jean-Chretien Silbertin-Blanc, a professional thesp who played the clueless title character in “Augustin.” Presumably intended as a sort of living bridge between past and present, he
stumbles through the proceedings, a depressed stick-in-the-mud listening to heartbreaking testimony, without adding a trace of narrative oomph.
Lensing is rarely better than adequate, but given the material, that’s a minor point.