Marcel Marceau: Performing Artist. Iconic Mime. Emmy winner. Famous talk show guest. Nazi Resistance Fighter?
Yes, it’s all true. The new IFC drama “Resistance”, available on VOD, stars Academy Award nominee Jesse Eisenberg as a young Marceau. It’s the late 1930s in the north of France. Marceau works at his father’s butcher shop. But he yearns to be on the stage, performing his unique, silent act.
Marceau’s biggest audience becomes a group of 123 young Jewish orphans. Their parents have been murdered by invading Nazis troops. WWII is in full swing in Europe. Marceau’s playful routines provide comfort to the kids during an otherwise sad and frightening time.
As Hitler’s troops continue their take-over of France, Marceau, his brother and two female companions join the French Resistance, in a futile attempt to fight-off the Nazis. Eventually, Marceau realizes saving children is the most important thing they can do. As the epilogue details, he was heroically successful.
Just when you think you’ve seen, read or heard every amazing story of courage that took place during the Holocaust, a new one is brought to light. And, even though a little unfocussed at times, this is a story worth experiencing. Other fascinating true-life details spill-out over the course of the two hours. Writer/Director Jonathan Jakubowicz uses a General George S. Patton post-WWII address to U.S. soldiers to frame Marceau’s tale. Ed Harris plays Patton — in an early scene and movie’s finale. That’s it.
This is Eisenberg’s “tour de force”. His quirky style and expressive facial skills work nicely in the gentle and precise mime scenes, and also when he’s dealing with many life-and-death situations. There’s always a tricky element in films about an unknown chapter in a real person’s life. Jakubowicz succeeds keeping dramatic intensity throughout, though some key moments are diminished a bit by our knowledge of Marceau’s later life.
This is one of those movies that, every 15-20 minutes or so, punches you in the gut — and the blows range in force. It doesn’t shy away from the horror, while blending-in moments of joy. The times those emotions intersect are often shocking. The ensemble cast, including Clemence Posey (great on “Genius: Picasso”), Bella Ramsey, Matthias Schweighofer (as Klaus Barbie) and Edgar Ramirez (in a brief appearance) add substance.
More history lesson than biopic, this telling of an astonishing story of the greatest silent clown’s past history as a war hero is worth shouting about.
LCJ GRADE: B+
Running Time: 120 min.