This documentary from director Claude Chabrol demonstrates how the old-fashioned compilation can still have a dramatic impact when skillfully edited with a carefully crafted narration. Using Vichy's own newsreels and songs, THE EYE OF VICHY shows the blend of opportunism and native fascism
that made up the collaborationist government, undercut by brief references to the items not caught by offical cameramen at staged events.
Opening with a very quick montage of battle scenes, both real and fictional, the film gets to the establishment of a new authoritarian government headed by the revered WWI hero, Marshal Petain, whose emphasis on the sins that lead to the 1940 defeat often make him appear a not very forgiving
Father Confessor. The Vichy newsreels stress German aid to France, although more cynical audiences might see the Nazi effort to save damaged oil refineries and railways as good military sense. More interesting is the emphasis on battles in North Africa between Vichy forces and the British, a sure
winner for French emotions.
Most citizens in the first few years of German domination are not terribly bothered by the defeat. Only Jews and outright anti-fascists had anything to worry about, since the Vichy regime eagerly initiated anti-Semitic legislation and paramilitary organizations. The visit to Paris by the dreaded
SS General Heydrich and the formation of the Milice are heralded in the newsreels. The Germans also cleverly use their French POWs as more than a million bargaining chips, releasing some here and there, but mostly exchanging them for laborers sent to Germany. That demand for labor eventually
undermines Vichy's early popularity as Petain and Laval begin to conscript men to work in the Third Reich. The newsreels talk as much about bandits and criminals as about Allied bombing-raid victims.
Besides the outright racist slogans, there is even more talk about a common European link, uniting France with Germany against the foreign Anglo-Americans and Soviets. One very novel piece of propaganda is an animation that features a crassly bourgeois family talking of liberation in terms of food
and delicacies, while an American bombing squadron piloted by the likes of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Popeye destroys their home. There are also rallies and meetings honoring the several thousand French volunteers in the German Army on the Russian front. As the war draws closer to French
shores, the newsreels show the massive fortifications closest to the English coast and stress the letters written by children to their fathers still held in German POW camps.
Despite too much emphasis on Petain's official appearances before adoring crowds, THE EYE OF VICHY furthers the view of the collaborationist regime first pioneered by Marcel Ophuls in THE SORROW AND THE PITY (1970)--namely, that many Frenchmen cooperated wholeheartedly with the government--and
uses some similar period footage. This Chabrol film, however, benefits from a narration co-scripted by the American expert on Vichy, Robert Paxton, and closes with the chilling statistic that at the war's close there were more Frenchmen in Germany than in 1940. From Goebbels' diaries, we know that
the Nazi leaders seriously planned to annex Burgundy once their victory was certain, which weakens any revisionist arguments concerning the viability of a separate peace with Hitler. (Adult situations, violence.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1993
- Rating: NR
- Review: This documentary from director Claude Chabrol demonstrates how the old-fashioned compilation can still have a dramatic impact when skillfully edited with a carefully crafted narration. Using Vichy's own newsreels and songs, THE EYE OF VICHY shows the blend… (more)