the decency of the resistance fighters

Film Hitchcock worked as a propagandist during the war working with the UK’s Ministry of Information to produce a couple of shorts as a morale booster for the French Resistance.

The first, Bon Voyage, is a neat bit of suspense about an RAF who has escaped a prisoner of war camp and describes how he returned home. His story is presented in flashback, the events described from two perspectives Roshoman-style, Hitch demonstrating that there are always varying degrees of truth and that you shouldn’t believe everything you see. Clearly made on a budget and featuring few locales, it’s still more purely entertaining than many war films because the director isn't afraid to emphasise small details at the expense of the epic gestures, such as the decency of the resistance fighters. A scene in a farmhouse (between a soldier and a resistance fighter) has a clear antecedent in The 39 Steps, and the overall impression is that if he’d had the time and inclination Hitch would have been able to stretch the material over a longer duration.

Aventure Malgache has a similar flashback structure, but it’s the much clearer, more straightforward story in which an actor explains to his colleagues how he escaped from Vichy controlled Madagascar. The BFI have an incisive discussion of the political implications but my favourite scenes are the brief moments between the actors in their dressing room; Hitch returned to the theatre throughout his career, but this seems to be the most accurate presentation so far of what it is like, the friendly banter between actors just before subsuming themselves in character before going on stage. There’s also a wonderful moment within flashback in which a picture is replaced which could have been dropped in from Casablanca. And that’s that for the war period.

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