Movie Review: The Two of Us

By Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D
Movie Magazine International
"The Two of Us" is the delightful 1967 drama, co-written and directed by the inimitable Claude Berri, whose writing/acting/ and directing career spans five decades, and who directed enchanting films like "Jean de Florette" and "Manon of the Spring," and one of my favorite, short, "Le Poulet." "The Two of Us" takes place in 1944 Nazi occupied France during World War II. This film is a rare gem that gives us insight into what it must have been like to be in France during the war and to experience the fear and deprivation that comes with being in an occupied country.

"The Two of Us" stars the incomparable Michel Simon, the Swiss born actor whose acting career spanned seven decades from the twenties in silent films to when he died in 1975. By the end he had appeared in 110 films. In the 1950s he worked less frequently, partly because of an accident involving makeup dye that paralyzed part of his body and face. Despite this misfortune, he was able to act in films right up to his death. Simonís acting style is unique; itís so natural it seems like heís not acting at all. His charisma and natural style are irresistible.

"The Two of Us" focuses mainly on the relationship between an old man, Pepe (Simon) and a little boy, Claude, played by an adorable Alain Cohen. The acting is memorable, from the beginning to the end of this film. The film takes a look at bigotry against Jews during World War II times.

Like most people, Pepe is full of contradictions. He is somewhat cynical but also full of compassion and respect for "all life," so he says. In his first scene we see him sitting at the dinner table eating a meal. His large terrier dog sits in the chair next to him. Pepe spoon-feeds the dog, telling the boy about his great love for his loyal canine friend.

Pepe is avowed vegetarian, a practice he imposes on the dog, and eventually on the boy. He loves "all forms of life" -- but he hates Jews. Pepe doesnít see the irony in this, and doesnít know that Claude is a Jew. Claude is sent to the country to be safe, armed with a memorized Christian name and The Lordís Prayer.

The relationship between the boy and the old man is cemented after Claude is forced to get his head shaved as a punishment, is bullied by kids at school, and Claude comforts him. The love and affection between the two is palpable. This special film never indulges in sentimentality or easy resolutions. This is an artistic and powerful film, well worth the time to see in the theater.

For Movie Magazine, this is Joan Widdifield. ©
Air date: 7/27/05
joan.widdifield@gmail.com
More Information:
The Two of Us
Directed by Claude Berri