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'Peaceful': Almost Powerful

By Desson Thomson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 29, 2004; Page WE41

There's something rather lovely about the mood and intentions of Michel Deville's French movie, set in Paris in August 1946.

Albert (Simon Abkarian) and his wife, Lea (Zabou Breitman), are proprietors of a ladies' garment workshop. Their employees are Jews who have survived the Nazi death camps. This commonplace working situation is already a triumph. They are alive and free. While they work and banter, a collective history of shared misery emerges. Charles (Denis Podalydes), for instance, waits eternally for word of his wife and children, who were captured. But although the characters are warm and engaging, the dramatic situation cools its heels outside, never quite achieving the climax one expects.

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The most powerful moment occurs when a young man walks into a police station and sits down before the very inspector who, during the war, arrested his parents and dispatched them to the death camps. The man, 14 at the time, escaped. He will, he assures the cop, write about this incident. And he reminds the inspector that he has survived. It's the kind of confrontation you can't help wanting to see more of.

ALMOST PEACEFUL (UN MONDE PRESQUE PAISIBLE) (Unrated, 90 minutes) --Contains emotional thematic material and sexual situations. In French with subtitles. At the Avalon.


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