DVD Talk
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Reviews & Columns
Reviews
DVD
TV on DVD
Blu-ray
4K UHD
International DVDs
Theatrical
Video Games

Features
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
Interviews
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Columns
Anime Talk
DVD Stalk
DVD Savant
High-Def Revolution
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum
Resources
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info
Links

DVDTalk Info
Review Staff
About DVD Talk
Advertise
Newsletter Subscribe
Join DVD Talk Forum
DVD Talk Feeds


Sponsored Links

Search: For:
Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Safe Conduct (Laissez-passer)
Safe Conduct (Laissez-passer)
Koch Lorber Films // Unrated // May 11, 2004
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted June 16, 2004 | E-mail the Author
Buy from Amazon.com
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Rent It
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
P R I N T
Printer Friendly
The movie

I have a deep and enduring distrust of films that are "based on a true story": while some turn out to be gems, many fall into the trap of getting over-involved with the real details of events and forgetting about the niceties of storytelling and engaging the viewer. Safe Conduct (original title: Lassez-passer) is such a film.

Director Bernard Tavernier has meticulously re-created the film community of 1940s German-occupied Paris for this film, which purports to explore the tension between resistance, survival, and collaboration. Certainly the film looks authentic, as we witness the various characters struggling to make their way about a city that's swarming with Germans, periodically bombed by the British, and perpetually short of supplies like coal. Tavernier has also peopled the film with many characters, notably 139 different speaking parts, and drawn it out to two hours and forty-three minutes of running time, as if fearful that he wouldn't have enough time to fit in all the real incidents and references that he wanted to.

Despite its profusion of characters and attention to detail – or perhaps because of it – Safe Conduct ends up making very little impression. It's a very busy film, but it's a cold and uncompelling bustle rather than a lively narrative. We jump immediately into the life of one of the characters, but there's no particular reason to be interested in him or concerned about his welfare. In fact, that goes for everybody in the film. Why should we care about their ethical conflicts? Why should we care what happens to anybody?

The film wraps up by narrating what happens to each of a handful of characters, spelling out what films they made and emphasizing Safe Conduct's status as a film about real events. Viewers may very well find this an illustration of the film's status more as a compilation of "re-enacted incidents featuring French filmmakers" than an actual narrative. Tavernier also makes explicit the message that any "collaboration" was really (according to Tavernier) just a kind of resistance in disguise. It strikes me that this is a tacit admission that Safe Conduct doesn't really accomplish what it presumably set out to do. If we're supposed to find the film a compelling meditation on the difficulties of surviving under occupation, why spell it out for us in the end? By telling us outright that the French-made German propaganda films were not explicitly anti-Semitic or pro-collaboration, Tavernier is trying to stamp Safe Conduct with the message that the filmmakers depicted here were not really pawns of the German propaganda machine. But it could just as easily mean that the German propagandists were fairly sophisticated in knowing what they could get their French collaborators to produce without tipping them over into outright resistance.

Now, that's an interesting element to add to the "collaborate or resist?" theme: how do you know when feigned collaboration becomes real, and how can you tell if you are unwittingly supporting the very system you're trying to undermine? Sadly, though, the tepid and torpid Safe Conduct isn't the film to watch if you want to explore those issues.

The DVD

Video

Safe Conduct's anamorphic widescreen transfer (at the film's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio) provides a reasonably good but not ideal presentation of the film. Colors look natural, the print appears clean and free of noise or flaws, and edge enhancement is limited; however, the general appearance is a bit soft, and the dark scenes tend to be much too dark, obscuring the detail in the image. The English subtitles are optional, and are presented in an easy-to-read yellow lettering.

Audio

Viewers have the choice of a French Dolby 2.0 or a French Dolby 5.1 soundtrack for this film. The 2.0 track is satisfactory, although a bit flat; the 5.1 offers greater depth and clarity of sound. Overall, it's a solid soundtrack that provides nice ambiance for the film.

Optional English subtitles are available.

Extras

The special features here are nothing to write home about. A "Bertram Tavernier interview" turns out to be text-only, not a video feature. The other features are a filmography for Tavernier, a trailer, and a photo gallery.

Final thoughts

Safe Conduct is a film that will probably be enjoyed (or at least intellectually appreciated) by devotees of French cinema who are well-versed in the history of the art. Its main selling point is also its main weakness: the film is based on real events experienced by a number of French filmmakers working in German-occupied Paris during World War II. As a narrative film, Safe Conduct is not really worth watching, as it's lacking in narrative interest and clogged by too many characters. As an enactment of history, it may have its appeal. I'll suggest it as a rental.

Popular Reviews
1. Superman: The Movie
2. Andrei Rublev: Criterion Collection
3. 2001: A Space Odyssey
4. Creepshow
5. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies
6. Fire Birds
7. I Married Joan: Classic TV Collection Vol 4
8. The Adventures of Hajji Baba
9. Starchaser: The Legend of Orin
10. How the Grinch Stole Christmas: Ultimate Edition


Sponsored Links
DVD Blowouts
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
Alien [Blu-ray]
Buy: $19.99 $9.99
8.
9.
10.
Sponsored Links
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Copyright 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All Rights Reserved. Legal Info, Privacy Policy, Terms of Use