French films review – September 2019
A critical eye on the latest ciné releases: this month Transit and Vif-Argent
Transit - Christian Petzold; 101 mins
While the director of this superior ‘existential thriller’ is German, and the source material for the story is a 1944 book by a German-Jewish war refugee, most of the action takes place in Paris and Marseille.
France is occupied by an unnamed fascist regime, yet the temporal setting is not entirely precise – it could well be the modern day, but the film is intended as a dystopian allegory rather than a simple mirror to contemporary France.
And as the title suggests, everyone in the film is in ‘Transit’ – in flux or on the move for one reason or another.
Our hero (anti-hero?) Georg is on the run, embroiled in a mess of dodgy visas, bundles of money and a dead writer, to whom he was supposed to deliver some important letters.
The writer, it is later revealed, killed himself over rejection from both an unimpressed publisher and his estranged wife.
Next, en route to Marseille, his job is to help a wounded man to escape the country, but Georg himself ends up with the man’s ‘exit visas’, which will require plenty of paperwork if he is ever to flee in his stead. In the meantime, he falls in love with the dead writer’s wife.
The writer’s final, unpublished manuscript describes hell as perpetually waiting for a bureaucracy to notice you. A mini-allegory for France in itself...
Vif-Argent (Burning Ghost)
Moving film about a young man, seemingly in purgatory, who can see dead people and must accompany them to the afterlife.