Set in and just after World War II in France, this film looks at a boy and his family and the impact that the war has on their lives.
Jean Becker is often dismissed as a peddler of feel-good Gallic heritage by chic British critics but as with 1999s undervalued Children Of The Marshland this is a charming and deceptively acute study of the French rural character in extremis.
Given that Michel Quints novella considers how an act of kindness by a Nazi soldier could persuade an accidental Resistance fighter to become a clown, the action could easily have lapsed into sentimental fantasy. But such is Beckers understanding of the delicate balance maintained by most ordinary folk during the occupation that its the nature of sacrifice and unity not courage and patriotism that underpins the flashbacked story.
Jacques Villeret and André Dussollier are both mischievous and remorseful as the teacher and milliner whose act of sabotage backfires, but the entire ensemble is as note-perfect as Zbigniew Preisners score.