Last night, BBC 4 showed a terrific film I would recommend to all. Called “Almost Peaceful” in English it is Un Monde Presque Paisible by Michel Deville. Set in Paris in 1946, around the tailoring workshop reestablished by two survivors, it is a subtle, terrific, hopeful look at the ways people put their lives back together. Both the author of the book on which it is based (Quoi de neuf sur la guerre, Robert Bober) and the director lived through these times as children. Bober had been a tailor, spent the war years as a child, mostly in hiding and also worked in the homes for Jewish orphans in the forties.

I liked the humanity of it, the ways in which different characters discover new ways of living, the way in which it managed very successfully to tell about the horror without ever showing it except as it affected those in the workshop, and did not shy away from the persistence of anti semitism afterwards as well: look out for a very funny short scene in a bar with a fascist, and with a moving scene where a the young man realises that the policeman who must approve his naturalisation papers is the one who arrested his parents (but then France was a year away from having another government headed by a Jew and these people are depicted as problematic not representative and in any case the director is more interested in the survivors).

But most of all I was left with a real affection for the central characters and their desire to help each other as best they can. As it finished I wanted to meet them, spend time with them, introduce them to my friends, not pity them. which is a real achievement.

it came out in 2002, is available with subtitles and i thoroughly recommend it. You can get it on amazon (poorly and inaccurately described but what’s new?)