I'm Alive and I Love You Review

Working as railwayman during the Occupation, Julien (Jérôme Deschamps) finds his everyday job more and more sickening as he watches trainloads of French Jews being sent to their death. He’s tried his best to ignore the current situation but one day a piece of paper is dropped from a carriage with “I’m alive and I love you” scrawled upon it and a location… With a little bit of ground work he manages to find out whom the message was destined to and sets out to meet an old Jewish couple, too old to flee and unable to find a hiding place. They haven’t heard from their daughter, Sarah, since the Gestapo arrested her. Unable to break the horrible news to them, Julien finds himself inventing a fake story to help them cope.

It will be hard for any critic to not compare this film to Claude Berri’s majestic Le Vieil Homme et L’Enfant (The Two of Us) in which an anti-Semitic old man (Michel Simon at his best), unbeknown to himself, hides a Jewish child during the war… In Roger Kahane’s film however, Julien is neither an anti-Semite nor a resistant – just a railwayman simply doing his job whilst his country is occupied by Germany. Although nowhere near as inflammatory as Lacombe Lucien (which had De Gaulle storming out of the cinema hurling abuse), Kahane, basing himself on a real event, renders a realistic image of that strange period with heroes few and far between and a resistance limiting itself to token acts of sabotage…

The cast works quite well as a unit with hardly any famous actors amongst them – the overall tone is one of sincerity rather than heroism which helps the film shine in its own modesty. The cinematography is slightly unadventurous, betraying in part Kahane’s TV background, but in its use of natural light brings an extra layer of authenticity to it. Despite the technical limitations (probably imposed by the tight budget), the film is effectively moving, and without being an outstanding tour-de-force, offers it’s own take on the occupation of France.

The DVD:

The image:Surprisingly for a relatively old DVD, we get an anamorphic transfer – the source material however seems a little damaged and quite grainy on close inspection. Certain scenes are quite sombre and the colours a little muted at times, although I assume that was the intent of the cinematographer. Globally the transfer is quite basic but of good quality and problem-free.

The sound

:We get an Mpeg 2.0 track which sounds absolutely fine with the voices being clearly audible, as is the soundtrack. Doriane films however have since chosen to use DD over Mpeg for their more recent releases (see Punishment Park).

The menus:Presented to the films soundtrack they are quite basic but pleasant enough.

The subtitles

:We get English subtitles solely for the main feature – these can be switched off on the fly and are machine generated. The English translation is very good with only the occasional spelling mistake.

The extras:None of the following are subtitled in EnglishWe get the compulsory biographies/filmographies of the cast and crew as well as a 6-minute long behind-the-scenes featurette with interviews with the director and lead actor. Transferred from video in a 4:3 format, the image quality is quite good.

Conclusions:Doriane films are doing an excellent job of introducing relatively unknown films to a wider public and deserve all the success they get. Despite winning the Audience’s Prize at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival, the present film was never going to be a major blockbuster but Doriane have once again managed to put together a very good release without cutting any corners…
You can order the film from Doriane themselves or alternatively from cinestore.com or Amazon.fr.

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