One of three opening night films for the North Carolina Jewish Film Festival, Michel Deville's Almost Peaceful is an episodic post-war French drama. Most of the action takes place in a Parisian tailor's shop, and most of the employees are recent survivors of the death camps.
It's summertime, or the off-season, which means that business is slow and the kids are at summer camp. In short, the adults have some time on their hands. One pursues an affair with a local prostitute while another tries to clear up his naturalization papers and runs into an old tormentor in the process. Meanwhile, an unhappily married woman pines for a tailor who's lost his family--their inevitable confrontation is the film's best scene. All of them ruminate on the fearful cataclysm that they've just experienced, one that's severed their ties to the lives they once had.
Almost Peaceful is an apt title, for despite the film's surface serenity, irony and sadness are never far away. For instance, two women chatter about their children's activities at camp while another tailor averts his eyes--he's still keeping a vigil for his wife and children's return from a different kind of camp. (Tears, one tailor says, is the one stock we never run out of.)
Deville's new film doesn't quite match Enemies: A Love Story, which remains one of the best film treatments of romance and family reconstitution in the post-Holocaust moment. Although Almost Peaceful may be a little too episodic, talky and unfocused for some tastes, it nonetheless successfully and gracefully captures the moment in its own way. --David Fellerath
For a complete schedule of the North Carolina Jewish Film Festival, go to www.carolinatheatre.org.