As the Nazis invade France, a murderous movie actress, a would-be novelist wrongly accused of her crime, a malleable government minister, a petty crook, a treacherous journalist, an atomic scientist and his plucky female assistant fetch up in Bordeaux.
Echoes of Casablanca resound around this glossy, yet ceaselessly assured, wartime blend of comedy, romance and suspense. There's the anti-hero fatally drawn to a past love whose re-appearance can only mean trouble; a race against time to secure some papers of transit before the Gestapo shore up the town; a couple of untrustworthy types solely out for what they can get; and then there's the feckless sidekick who ultimately risks all in spite of himself.
Even the shifts in tone and twists in the tale are accomplished with something like the panache of the Warner classic. But there's a much jauntier feel to Jean-Paul Rappeneau's intricate study of the dark days when France's ruling elite fled south in the hope of escaping the invader, only eventually to succumb to him. Consequently, Gerard Depardieu's embattled minister spends less time coping with a national emergency than he does striving to keep self-obsessed star Isabelle Adjani's Parisian indiscretion out of the papers. It's as though the betrayal of Vichy had been recast as a To Be Or Not To Be-like farce - minus the slapstick Nazis.
The result is both audaciously amusing and provocatively sophisticated.
Handsomely staged, ingeniously plotted and played with evident enjoyment, this is mainstream arthouse at its most entertaining.