The Summer of 1945 saw a devastated Europe at peace, and, amid the ruins, a hunt for wartime collaborators--a search fueled as much by old grudges and fanatical politics as by a quest for justice. Based on a novel by Marcel Ayme, URANUS highlights the petty hatreds and guilty consciences underlying the five thousand "unofficial" executions of collaborators...read more
The Summer of 1945 saw a devastated Europe at peace, and, amid the ruins, a hunt for wartime collaborators--a search fueled as much by old grudges and fanatical politics as by a quest for justice. Based on a novel by Marcel Ayme, URANUS highlights the petty hatreds and guilty consciences
underlying the five thousand "unofficial" executions of collaborators in France after its liberation by Allied armies.
The setting for the film is a small French village whose main square has been destroyed, ironically, by Allied bombers, and as a result, the solidly middle-class Archambaud (Jean-Pierre Marielle) and his family must share their apartment with those who have been bombed out. They include the
cultured and polite high school teacher Watrin (Philippe Noiret), as well as Geigneux (Michel Blanc), the local Communist Party leader, and his wife and two infants. Archambaud has a beautiful 18-year-old daughter, Marie-Anne (Florence Darel), intent on honing her seductive charm as a prerequisite
for her ambitions as an actress. Complicating this domestic situation is the feverish purge of collaborators.
While the town's children play at war amid the daytime ruins, at night bands of FFI (French Forces of the Interior), armed with real guns, stop and roughly question anyone they don't know. On one night, Archambaud spots Maxine Loin (Gerard Desarthe) hiding from the FFI. Loin was, indeed, a
collaborator, a former member of the fascist Milice, but Archambaud decides to let him hide in his apartment. Archambaud informs his wife and Watrin of this decision, with which they readily agree, and Loin has only to avoid Geigneux, who tends to stay in the servants' quarters, in any event.
Geigneux is the most level-headed, and most proletarian, of the town Communists, who include solitary fanatics like Jourdan (Fabrice Luchini) and mousy gossipers like the railway clerk Rochard (Daniel Prevost). Rochard had denounced Leopold (Gerard Depardieu), the cafe owner, to the police
without cause, but the bigger Leopold simply forces him to recant in front of the local police sergeant. Used as a classroom by Watrin, the cafe is the veritable town center since everybody comes there at one point. Leopold is the most avid of Watrin's students, and begins to compose an epic verse
ballad in between swigs from his wine bottle.
A former sideshow strongman, Leopold is a Rabelaisian figure who is afraid of no one, and that includes the visually sinister Monglat (Michel Galabru), apparently the town's richest man, who is shown buying modernist paintings to add to his hoarded treasures. Leopold drunkenly denounces Monglat
one night in the town square, an act which seals his doom. When the police come to arrest him, the big, booming would-be poet defies them and is shot repeatedly. Even Rochard is shocked by his death. Meanwhile, Geigneux, thinking the Archambaud daughter is at her practice, discovers Loin and walks
him to the police station.
Hypocrisy and greed are seen in URANUS as the primary motives disguised by political belief and patriotism. At one point a group of FFI men start to beat a returning POW. Their foolish brutality is obvious, as the man was in a German Stalag during the occupation, but none of his fellow POWs comes
to his aid; only Watrin shames them into stopping. Even Leopold claims to have hidden a Jew, but the local police counter with the facts that the man was only half-Jewish, one of Leopold's relatives, and worked for him in the cafe.
Ultimately one must wonder if the Archambaud family, which so lightly takes on the protection of Loin, would have done so for a fugitive from the Gestapo and Loin's Milice a year-and-a-half earlier. (Partial nudity.)