A Bag of Marbles Review – Magnificent, Heartwarming, A Sure Winner

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A Bag of Marbles, from the Gaumont Film Company, brings to the screen the true story of a family torn apart by Nazi invasion of France and the fight to stay alive and reunite after the liberation.

Directed by Christian Duguay, A Bag of Marbles stars Dorian Le Clech, Batyste Fleurial, Patrick Bruel Elsa Zylberstein, Bernard Campan, Kev Adams, Christian Clavier, Cesat Domboy, IIian Bergala, Emile Berling, Jocelyne Desverchere, Coline Leclere, Holger Daemgen, Michael Smadja, Lucas Prisor and Frederic Epaud.  A Bag of Marbles was written by Christain Duguay, Benoit Guichard, Jonathan Alouche, Alexandra Geismar, Laurent Zeitoun based on the autobiographical novel by Joseph Joffo.

We meet Joseph Joffo, a handsome little man of ten, played by Dorian Le Cleach and his brother Maurice, two years older, played by Batyste Fleurial, on the late winter morning as they are playing around on the way to school.

The Joffo household, Roman, played by Patrick Bruel, a barber, and his wife, Anna, played by Elsa Zylberstein, had four boys, the two older brothers, both of whom were also barbers, Henri, played by Cesar Domboy and Albert, played by IIian Bergala and the two younger boys, Joseph, played by Dorian Le Clech and Maurice played by Batyste Fleurial all lived in Paris within view of their shop.

The initial waves of the oncoming storm had splashed into Paris as Jewish business owners were obligated to designate their business with “Jewish Owned.” Germans soldiers were in the capital and making their presence known.

The film moves quickly the years marked by certain historical events, in June 1941, all Jews were, by the order of German government required to wear a Star of David emblem. As Anna sews the patches on the jackets Roman understands.

The first day the boys go to school with the patches suddenly lines are drawn and fights begin, on the way home a child, younger than Joseph, convinces him to trade his star for a bag of marbles and so he rips it off and a trade is made.

This is when the film shifts, the boys return home and are told they will have to leave tonight, Henri and Albert have already left, they will travel to the free zone, and they will all be reunited in the South of France as they have an Uncle Saul, who will meet them.

Joseph and Maurice begin the trip. Their dad, Roman, had explained under no circumstance admit you are Jewish, never, never tell anyone. He had either divine guidance or instinct as he sent his sons, separately, the next day, after the boys left the German began rounding up Jewish citizens.

The boys were on the train and by the grace of God a priest looked down the barrel of a German machine gun and explained the boys were with him. He gave them apples, sound advice and made sure they made their bus which would take them to the meet for the guide to the free zone.

The Germans have begun targeting all Jews attempting to flee, even before a full occupation and those who are attempting to make it to the free zone are shot on sight. The boys, always one false move from tragedy, again make it through. Soon they have made it to the free zone and begin walking the 835km to Nice.

The two begin hitchhiking and as our young Joseph explains in voice over, even now through the laughter you could tell everyone was scared. The winds of War even in the free zone were bringing the encroaching dark clouds South.

Finally, the boys make it to Nice and again the film is filled with lighthearted laughter so much so that one forgets or at least for a moment the words of war, hatred, and evil are erased from a young boys’ mind. This is a family that deeply loved each other. The scenes in Nice are heartwarming and as we see our young Joseph is quite the entrepreneur. The market scenes are nicely done and even erase from the sophisticated minds of retrospect and knowledge the horrors that await our family.

Needless to say, I was captivated from the beginning.

As this is the autobiographical story of Joseph, the youngest, who is still alive and living in Paris as his is brother Maurice, the story is through his eyes. The Holocaust, and the depth of its insidious evil, its satanic hatred, wasn’t the focal point.

The story of two young boys who survive on their own, with only small reunions with their families during a two-year period, of them having to hide, to deny their faith and finally captured and prepared, the two actors are brilliant and the two men who lived the story were bound to their family, faith, and each other and even when the evil was upon them it didn’t destroy their faith.

A Bag of Marbles is an award-winning film. It’s released date in January 2017 makes it eligible for an entire year of opportunities. I expect to see this film in major film festivals and at awards season. The actors are world class, a true story that sheds light on what others had to do to remain free, as their country was occupied by the German army.

The cinematography was beautiful is some scenes, stunning in others. This is the second movie made from the original novel written by Joseph Joffe which sold more than 20million copies.

The acting is world class and I can’t say enough about the performances. The father, Roman, played by Patrick Bruel and the two sons, Maurice, and Joseph, Dorian Le Clech and Batyste Fleurial capture the attention immediately.

A Bag of Marbles, which just had its North American premiere at the COLCOA French Film Festival in Los Angeles, opened in Paris in January 2017 and should open internationally in select cities soon.

In French with English Subtitles, I found myself straining to see every word. I was glued to the screen.

A Bag of Marbles is a must see.


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