×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Monsieur Batignole

In "Monsieur Batignole," a Gentile butcher gets a crash course in Jewish reality when a young escapee neighbor falls into his lap during the summer of 1942. Well-crafted, bittersweet comedy, in which an ordinary fellow in Nazi-occupied France behaves heroically despite himself, zips along with an entertaining and witty blend of close calls.

With:
Simon Bernstein - Jules Sitruk Edmond Batignole - Gerard Jugnot Marguerite Batignole - Michele Garcia Pierre-Jean Lamour - Jean-Paul Rouve Micheline Batignole - Alexia Portal SS Col. Spreich - Gotz Burger Max Bernstein - Sam Karmann Lucien Morel - Ticky Holgado

In “Monsieur Batignole,” a Gentile butcher gets a crash course in Jewish reality when a young escapee neighbor falls into his lap during the summer of 1942. Well-crafted, bittersweet comedy, in which an ordinary fellow in Nazi-occupied France behaves heroically despite himself, zips along with an entertaining and witty blend of close calls and despicable behavior counteracted by human resourcefulness. In his eighth stint behind the camera, multihyphenate star Gerard Jugnot has fashioned a fine package, ready to travel. Pic was top grosser the day it bowed in Gaul.

Edmond Batignole (Jugnot) runs a small butcher shop and catering establishment in Paris. His shrewish wife, Micheline (Alexia Portal), mans the cash register. Living with them in cramped quarters on the premises are their twentysomething daughter, Marguerite (Michele Garcia), and her fiance of two years, Pierre-Jean Lamour (Jean-Paul Rouve), an aspiring playwright who admires the Germans and is only too happy to inform on Jews.

Pic opens on July 15, 1942, as the Bernstein family is about to abandon its well-appointed apartment two flights up from Batignole’s shop to flee to Switzerland. Surgeon Max Bernstein (Sam Karmann) has a wife, a daughter and a bright young son, Simon (Jules Sitruk).

Pierre-Jean tricks his future father-in-law into delaying Dr. Bernstein while he dutifully informs SS Colonel Spreich (Gotz Burger) that some wealthy Jews are about to get away. After the Bernsteins are captured, Pierre-Jean arranges for their apartment to go to him and the Batignoles.

Edmond is drafted to cater the SS colonel’s social gatherings. Things are swell until young Simon, who’s escaped, comes knocking on the door of his family’s erstwhile abode.

Edmond hides the lad first in the maid’s room, then in the cellar, where he is unexpectedly joined by two young female cousins. The butcher finds himself protecting the children and resolves to get the three to safety in Switzerland.

Pic’s characters are stereotypes, but the evolving situations are so deftly handled that the narrative accomplishes what the best mass-audience films do — entertaining the viewer while providing food for thought. Luck (both good and bad) is a huge component of the protags’ journey, which is perilous yet marbled with genuinely funny incidents.

Pic offers vivid examples of both casual and large-scale profiteering and doesn’t shy away from depicting the zeal with which some French authorities collaborated with the Germans. Period re-creations are spot-on.

Apart from an artistic dance number in a cabaret featuring topless beauties,film about the joint dilemmas of children and adults is suitable for older children. Students of prior films about the era may spot traces of Claude Berri’s “The Two of Us” or Joseph Losey’s “M. Klein,” among others, but the prevailing inspiration here clearly is a personal quest with a universal reach.

Projecting exceptional intelligence as well as complete boyishness, Sitruk is outstanding as Simon. Jugnot makes Edmond a believable everyman who’s oblivious to the rotten underbelly of the status quo, yet responds when a modest chance for greatness is thrust upon him.

Khalil Chahine’s score is a model of how not to clobber auds with musical emotions.

Monsieur Batignole

France

Production: A Bac Distribution release of an RF2K Prods., Novo Arturo Films, TF1 Films production. (International sales: UGC Intl., Paris.) Produced by Olivier Granier, Dominique Farrugia, Gerard Jugnot. Directed by Gerard Jugnot. Screenplay, Philippe Lopes Curval, Jugnot.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Gerard Simon; editor, Catherine Kelber; music, Khalil Chahine; production designer, Jean-Louis Poveda; costume designer, Martine Rapin; sound (Dolby), Claude Villand, Michel Kharat; assistant director, Herve Ruet; casting, Francoise Menidrey, Sandra Mainguene. Reviewed at UGC Danton, Paris, March 9, 2002. Running time: 101 MIN.

With: Simon Bernstein - Jules Sitruk Edmond Batignole - Gerard Jugnot Marguerite Batignole - Michele Garcia Pierre-Jean Lamour - Jean-Paul Rouve Micheline Batignole - Alexia Portal SS Col. Spreich - Gotz Burger Max Bernstein - Sam Karmann Lucien Morel - Ticky HolgadoWith: Violette Blanckaert, Daphne Baiwir, Elisabeth Commelin, Hubert Saint Macary, Nadine Spinoza, Jean-Marie Winling, Karine Pinoteau, Sylvie Herbert.

More Film

  • Queen of Scots Hair and Makeup

    'Mary Queen of Scots' Hair, Makeup Artist Gave Substance and Style to Battling Queens

    Jenny Shircore has done the makeup and hair of several queens over the years: Cate Blanchett in “Elizabeth” and “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” (she won an Oscar for the former) and Emily Blunt in “The Young Victoria.”  In fact, she had to be convinced to do it again for Saoirse Ronan’s Queen Mary and Margot Robbie’s [...]

  • Richard E. Grant Variety Facetime Interview

    Richard E. Grant on Working With Melissa McCarthy on 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?'

    Richard E. Grant has been winning kudos for his supporting role in Fox Searchlight’s “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” The film, written by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, was directed by Marielle Heller and stars Melissa McCarthy as real-life celebrity biography Lee Israel. Was “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” a fast shoot? Yes, 26 days and [...]

  • WME Veteran Ari Greenburg Promoted to

    WME Veteran Ari Greenburg Promoted to President of Talent Agency

    WME veteran Ari Greenburg, one of the original Endeavor staffers who helped build the talent agency that became an industry powerhouse, has been promoted to president. Greenburg will oversee all daily operations across WME and its offices in Beverly Hills, New York, Nashville, London and Sydney. The promotion recognizes the role that Greenburg has played [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron Says He Owes 'Roma'

    Alfonso Cuaron Says He Owes 'Roma' in Part to Cannes' Thierry Fremaux

    At a special screening of “Roma” in Paris, Alfonso Cuaron said he owed the film to Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux, who encouraged him to return to Mexico to make a movie – and who, ironically, failed to nab the title for Cannes because of the festival’s spat with Netflix. Fremaux was eager to select [...]

  • Forrest Gump

    Guild of Music Supervisors Awards to Honor Joel Sill; King Princess to Perform (EXCLUSIVE)

    The Guild of Music Supervisors has announced that Joel Sill will receive the organization’s Legacy Award for his contribution to music in film. Sill’s body of work includes “Forrest Gump,” “The Goonies,” “Blade Runner,” “The Color Purple” and “My Cousin Vinny.” He will be joined by Spotify’s RISE artist, King Princess, who will be performing as [...]

  • Vice Christian Bale Sam Rockwell Playback

    Listen: Christian Bale and Sam Rockwell on Early Acting Days and Reuniting for 'Vice'

    PLAYBACK is a Variety / iHeartRadio podcast bringing you conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films. New episodes air every Thursday. Oscar-winning actors Christian Bale and Sam Rockwell first met 20 years ago on the Italy-set production of Michael Hoffman’s Shakespeare adaptation “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” With the business in their blood [...]

  • Rebecca Campbell Disney

    Disney Sets Out International Leadership Team Post-Fox Deal

    Rebecca Campbell, Diego Lerner and Uday Shankar are set to be Disney’s three key international chiefs when its deal for 21st Century Fox closes, the company announced Thursday. Campbell will run the Europe, Middle East and Africa team under the new structure, which is conditional on the Fox deal closing. She also adds Russia and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content