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Revolution in Paradise

Veiled Representations of Jewish Characters in the Cinema of Occupied France

Yehuda (Jean-Bernard) Moraly is professor emeritus at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. His fields of research are mainly French theatre and film: Jean Genet, la vie écrite (Editions de la Différence, 1988); Claudel metteur en scène (Presses Universitaires de Franche Comté, 1998); Le Maître fou, Genet théoricien du théâtre, Nizet, 2009). His L’œuvre impossible: Claudel, Genet, Fellini (Le Manuscrit, 2013) deals mostly with Fellini’s cinema. He is also a playwright and his plays are published and produced in France and Israel.

The era of the German Occupation of France constituted, surprisingly, a golden age for the arts: literature, theater, popular music and cinema. These works of art seem to be devoid of political impact. The widespread trend of unrealistic and fantastic art during this period is explained by some scholars as the artists' escape from the omnipotent eye of German censorship.

The purpose of the book is to show that, contrary to the accepted view, some of these films were intimately linked to the political situation. They convey the demonization of characters that, while not specifically presented as Jews nevertheless manifested anti-Semitic stereotypes of the Jew as ugly, rootless, low, hypocritical, immoral, cruel and power hungry. All five movies analysed (Les Inconnus dans la maison, dir. Henri Decoin, 1942; Les Visiteurs du Soir, dir. Marcel Carné, 1942; L’Eternel retour, dir. Jean Delannoy, 1943; Les Enfants du Paradis, dir. Marcel Carné, 1943) present characters not identified as Jews but who exhibit negative “Jewish” traits, in contrast to the aristocratic characters whom they aspire to emulate. They demonstrate, implicitly, central themes of explicit anti-Semitic propaganda.

Yehuda Moraly addresses two current major misconceptions regarding the Cinema of Occupied France: (1) that the accepted view that there were almost no explicitly Jewish characters in the cinema of that time and place is patently incorrect; and (2) that the feature films of Occupied France were not as it is commonly thought free of the propaganda messages that permeated the press, the radio and documentary films. Analysis of these films brings out the contradictory nature of European anti-Semitism. On one hand, the Jew is the anti-Christ, throttling the world with disgusting materialism while on the other hand, he is representative of an ancestral stifling morality, which it is time to abolish.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-719-3
Hardback Price: £40 / $60
Release Date: November 2019
Page Extent / Format: 272 pp. 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No



Part I: Explicit and Implicit Representations of Jewish Characters in French  Cinema during the German Occupation
Chapter 1. Direct Anti-Semitic Propaganda
Chapter 2. The War on Memory
Chapter 3. Le Camion blanc (The White Truck, Léo Joannon, 1943)
Chapter 4. Jean Cocteau, Hitler's Admirer: L'Eternel retour (The Eternal Return, 1943)
Chapter 5. The Ominous Visitors at the Splendid White Castle: Les Visiteurs du Soir (The Devil's Envoys, Marcel Carné, 1942)

Part II: Les Enfants du Paradis: A Different Perspective
The Film's Two Parts and the Historical Background: Le Boulevard du Crime (Paris, 1828) and L'homme blanc (Paris, 1836)
Chapter 6. From Page and Stage to Screen: The Theatrical Sources of Les Enfants du Paradis
Chapter 7. From Pétain to De Gaulle: The Genesis of a European Super-Production during the Black Years
Chapter 8. The Archeology of a Vanishing Murder: The Old-Clothes Man Character
Chapter 9. The Creators against the Creator

Yehuda Moraly’s book follows the same vein as those of historians Simon Epstein and Chantal Meyer-Plantureux. Like their works, it is a meticulous indictment of this academic and institutional spirit, born of the republican consensus P=ostwar, which invents a new narrative: The French left’s hands are clean, resistant and patriotic, and French culture is free and virtuous. … Moraly unravels the myth of the resistant film admirably well, stitch after stitch. …The story, because it is indeed a story, is fascinating. I emerge dazzled by the clarity, the style, the mass of accumulated research, his encyclopedic knowledge.
Shmuel T. Meyer, writing in the Hebrew magazine, Teatron

Yehuda Moraly’s Revolution in Paradise reads much like a detective story. All the meticulously gathered clues point to one culprit – the antisemitism just below the surface of the French films produced during the German Occupation of 1940–1944. The films in question, long celebrated as a triumph of the French spirit of resilience and resistance, become, in Moraly’s analysis, complicit with the occupier, repeatedly pointing to Jews as destroyers of civilization. But the culprit is not limited to the time of the Occupation alone. Moraly refers to a war on memory which continues to this day, obliterating the antisemitism present in great French art by blocking access to it in a variety of ways. It is precisely this memory that Moraly is intent on releasing from its suppressed state. Yehuda Moraly is also a very talented writer, revealing his own creative abilities.
Annette Aronowicz, Historical Journal of Film and Television, July 2021

Reviewed by Thierry J. Alcoloumbre  in the Journal of Religion & Film, Vol. 25 : Iss. 2 , Article 11. Available at:  

 The central thesis of Yehuda Moraly’s study is that French feature film of the Second World War was in fact less escapist than has previously been argued, and in particular that two of the recognized classics of the period (Les Visiteurs du soir (1942) and Les Enfants du paradis (1943), both directed by Marcel Carne´) contained anti-Semitic tropes, characters, or references. Moraly thus argues that these films represent a challenge to the received interpretation of French wartime feature film as anodyne or at least not propagandistic.
David Lees, University of Warwick, writing in Oxford French Studies, 2020 

Moraly has conducted a thorough research allowing him to introduce all the phases and facets of the progressive makeup of the films produced during the period of Occupation. It is through his meticulous research that we discover what went on behind the scenes of these “great” films. The myth is shaken to its foundations. The shock is to discover the complacency of France. They were not resistance fighters, but often fanatic collaborators. The disgust is no less great in discovering, in the list of names cited, these actors and poets in whom we thought we viewed the image of Beauty.
Liliane Limonchik, editor of A la page, a French-Israeli magazine

This brilliant academic study includes an outstanding index and will be invaluable to students and researchers.
David Isaacson, Jerusalem Post, 20 March 2020

Sifting through French film archives and original scripts, and sometimes even exercising his own “director’s intuition,” Moraly reconstructs the classics produced under the occupation. While censored versions are readily available on the Internet, the originals constituted a subtle attempt to alert French moviegoers to the “cancer” that pervaded their country and was to be eliminated at all costs - the Jews.
Reviewed in Segula, the Jewish History Magazine (Spring 2020)

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