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A French Village/Un Village Français, Season 2

Learning accurate history through the arts is time-tested, and watching it unfold onscreen or on the stage, handing us glimpses into what our ancestors had to go through while living their history, can be exciting as well as informative.

Creators Frédéric Krivine, Emmanuel Daucé, and Philippe Triboit stumbled on a winning series, begun in 2009 and continuing today, in showing us first-hand what the French people had to endure after the German army conquered them in 1940, a year into World War II.

Concentrating on the fictional town of Villeneuve, in the Jura province of France, Season 2 takes place in 1941.  Their small village, near the Swiss border and the collaborating Vichy Territory in the south, is now completely run by the Nazis.  The local doctor, Daniel Larcher (Robin Renucci), made Mayor last season, has difficulty keeping his integrity intact while having to obey the petty and often earth-shattering commands of the invading army, its German administrative bureaucracies, and local collaborators.

But he has lost his wife, Hortense (Audrey Fleurot) to a local S.S. commander, Heinrich (Richard Sammel, sadistic, handsome and sexual; truly creepy), and now his young and pretty Jewish maid has been imprisoned by the Nazis.  In the meantime, the French “collaborator,” Schwartz (Thierry Godard) has kicked his wife, Jeanine (the wonderfully mean-spirited Emmanuele Bach) out for being an anti-Semitic bitch and gone back to his mistress, a widow with two sons. 

The complications are well-thought-out with the Germans having their problems (Wehrmacht vs. Gestapo), the local police department now under the thumb of the national police (their lead detective, De Kervern (Patrick Descamps) having to play second fiddle to the much younger Jean Marchetti (Nicholas Gob)).
Also, the Communist cell, outlawed by the fascist government in France, is organizing assassinations against German officers, which leads in turn to large-scale executions of citizens.  Mayor Larcher’s brother, Marcel (Fabrizio Rongione) is a marked man for one such a killing, and must escape with help from his cell, which might mean the Commie-execution of his collaborator with whom he is falling in love, Marie (Nade Dieu).

The writing, direction, editing, costuming, set decorations, etc, are all superb, giving us period detail which reinforces the validity of the story-telling.  This is clearly an expensive show, a hit in Europe, and, ideally, will be here as well.  We can all learn history when it’s well-dramatized.  And this is some of the best ever shown on these shores.