CHOOSED PIECE - A book illuminates the complex and troubled history of the Continental, a production company created in Paris by the Nazis in 1940.
Cinema under the Occupation
"From the beginning of the Occupation, Paris will have a very special role for the German authorities, writes the historian Christine Leteux in his remarkable essay Continental Films, French cinema under German control (Editions of the Green Tower). It will be the city of pleasure. "Made for the rest of the warrior. "Cinema is one of those entertainment industries that have to leave quickly."
With hindsight of history, it also appears as an iconic microcosm of the French society of the time, who did not want to see the war coming and discovered under the German boot that "humiliation escorted defeat". The notation is Paul Meurisse, returned to the capital in the autumn of 1940, as many people of the show that the debacle had led to the South.
On 1 October 1940, the Nazi producer Alfred Greven, from the famous Berlin production company UFA, creates the Continental Films, which will paradoxically write one of the most brilliant pages of French cinema.
Indeed, Greven takes the hand on "the cream of the directors, the biggest stars and the best technicians available". It is not without discomfort, note Christine Leteux, that the first contacted personalities engage under this banner. Their refusal or their membership depends on the restart of the French film industry, and we do not know how long the Occupation can last. The landscape is grim: a whole professional environment is unemployed, and the only bodies that want to rebuild it are the Nazi winner and the Organizing Committee of the Cinematographic Industry (COIC) of Vichy, which forbids access to them. Jews.
In this dilemma between personal scruples and the stakes for national production, the first directors solicited (Marcel Carné, Christian-Jaque, Georges Lacombe, Maurice Tourneur, Henry Decoin) try to negotiate. Guy de Carmoy, Parisian leader of the COIC, pushes them to go under these caudine forks, otherwise it is the death of the French cinema, but undertakes to support them in case of conflict.
In such an implacable situation, the answers can only be empirical, and the work of Christine Leteux, supported by numerous unpublished archives (drawn especially from the files of process of the purification), shows the whole complexity of the positions and the behaviours.
As early as 1941, a Carné, a Christian-Jaque, managed to oppose Greven insolently and leave the Continental by breach of contract. On the plateaux there is a poisonous atmosphere of armed clashes, espionage and denunciation. Henri Decoin makes work under the mantle the Jewish screenwriter Max Colpet, who will be paid by Greven without his knowledge: Decoin shares with him his salary, which will allow him to flee and to win Switzerland. In contrast, Leo Joannon, nicknamed by Henri Jeanson "the fly of the Boche" treacherously sign comedy Whims, stolen from two very talented Jewish writers who no longer have a voice, Jacques Companeez and Raymond Bernard.
Preface by Bertrand Tavernier, who highlights its high qualities (firsthand documentation and impartiality that defies clichés), Continental Filmsis an exciting fresco, incarnate, unexpected, disturbing and illuminating.
Source: Cinema under the Occupation