Roses à crédit

Over the last 20 years, Amos Gitaï has constructed a marvelous career making films that confront Israeli history, politics and memory. Be prepared for something entirely different with “Roses à crédit,” a film shot entirely in France, where evidence of contemporary society appears to be virtually absent (although there is indubitably a message for the present embedded in its tale). Israel is never mentioned; ditto the Holocaust. This is a brave, bold new step for Gitaï and the resulting film feels like the work of a master moving in a new artistic direction.

The film mercilessly but sensitively dissects the materialist, post-war world of the French lower middle-class. It starts with a radio broadcast from the Second World War, a piece of official Vichy propaganda, and soon moves to stirring Resistance speeches of patriotic exhortation. This is the backdrop for a wedding between Daniel and Marjoline, a relationship that we follow over the following years as it waxes and wanes, mirroring in many ways the fortunes of France itself at this time. Marjoline, an attractive but somewhat empty-headed girl, soon turns into a consumer par-excellence, eagerly devouring magazines and ads, looking for exciting new clothes or appliances for her house. Daniel, on the other hand, is more of a dreamer, in love with the roses that were a family business and which he has inherited along with his patrimony.

Gitaï proves extremely adept at following the emotional curves of this ill-fated marriage, as debt and credit begin to overwhelm the couple’s early romanticism. While everyday life plays out against a backdrop of post-war reconstruction and expansion, the ebb and flow of the relationship is beautifully circumscribed. Furthermore, the film is a paean to ’50s décor, clothes and design; as immense efforts have been painstakingly made to assure total faithfulness to the era. But underneath the immaculate surface lies a potent message. [Synopsis courtesy of Piers Handling/Toronto International Film Festival]