Jewish and Israel Studies

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Revolution in Paradise

Veiled Representations of Jewish Characters in the Cinema of Occupied France

Yehuda (Jean-Bernard) Moraly is professor emeritus at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. His fields of research are mainly French theatre and film: Jean Genet, la vie écrite (Editions de la Différence, 1988); Claudel metteur en scène (Presses Universitaires de Franche Comté, 1998); Le Maître fou, Genet théoricien du théâtre, Nizet, 2009). His L’œuvre impossible: Claudel, Genet, Fellini (Le Manuscrit, 2013) deals mostly with Fellini’s cinema. He is also a playwright and his plays are published and produced in France and Israel.

The era of the German Occupation of France constituted, surprisingly, a golden age for the arts: literature, theater, popular music and cinema. These works of art seem to be devoid of political impact. The widespread trend of unrealistic and fantastic art during this period is explained by some scholars as the artists' escape from the omnipotent eye of German censorship.

The purpose of the book is to show that, contrary to the accepted view, some of these films were intimately linked to the political situation. They convey the demonization of characters that, while not specifically presented as Jews nevertheless manifested anti-Semitic stereotypes of the Jew as ugly, rootless, low, hypocritical, immoral, cruel and power hungry. All five movies analysed (Les Inconnus dans la maison, dir. Henri Decoin, 1942; Les Visiteurs du Soir, dir. Marcel Carné, 1942; L’Eternel retour, dir. Jean Delannoy, 1943; Les Enfants du Paradis, dir. Marcel Carné, 1943) present characters not identified as Jews but who exhibit negative “Jewish” traits, in contrast to the aristocratic characters whom they aspire to emulate. They demonstrate, implicitly, central themes of explicit anti-Semitic propaganda.

Yehuda Moraly addresses two current major misconceptions regarding the Cinema of Occupied France: (1) that the accepted view that there were almost no explicitly Jewish characters in the cinema of that time and place is patently incorrect; and (2) that the feature films of Occupied France were not as it is commonly thought free of the propaganda messages that permeated the press, the radio and documentary films. Analysis of these films brings out the contradictory nature of European anti-Semitism. On one hand, the Jew is the anti-Christ, throttling the world with disgusting materialism while on the other hand, he is representative of an ancestral stifling morality, which it is time to abolish.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-719-3
Hardback Price: £40 / $60
Release Date: November 2019
Page Extent / Format: 272 pp. 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No



Part I: Explicit and Implicit Representations of Jewish Characters in French  Cinema during the German Occupation
Chapter 1. Direct Anti-Semitic Propaganda
Chapter 2. The War on Memory
Chapter 3. Le Camion blanc (The White Truck, Léo Joannon, 1943)
Chapter 4. Jean Cocteau, Hitler's Admirer: L'Eternel retour (The Eternal Return, 1943)
Chapter 5. The Ominous Visitors at the Splendid White Castle: Les Visiteurs du Soir (The Devil's Envoys, Marcel Carné, 1942)

Part II: Les Enfants du Paradis: A Different Perspective
The Film's Two Parts and the Historical Background: Le Boulevard du Crime (Paris, 1828) and L'homme blanc (Paris, 1836)
Chapter 6. From Page and Stage to Screen: The Theatrical Sources of Les Enfants du Paradis
Chapter 7. From Pétain to De Gaulle: The Genesis of a European Super-Production during the Black Years
Chapter 8. The Archeology of a Vanishing Murder: The Old-Clothes Man Character
Chapter 9. The Creators against the Creator

This brilliant academic study includes an outstanding index and will be invaluable to students and researchers.
David Isaacson, Jerusalem Post, 20 March 2020

Sifting through French film archives and original scripts, and sometimes even exercising his own “director’s intuition,” Moraly reconstructs the classics produced under the occupation. While censored versions are readily available on the Internet, the originals constituted a subtle attempt to alert French moviegoers to the “cancer” that pervaded their country and was to be eliminated at all costs - the Jews.
Reviewed in Segula, the Jewish History Magazine (Spring 2020)

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