When the village of Boom in Flanders learns that an invading Spanish army plan to pass the night, the 4-man army deserts and the Mayor plays dead, so the Mayor's wife organizes the townswomen to greet the invaders and preserve the peace with womanly wiles
Lazare Meerson's recreation of 17th century Flanders is perfect and adds vibrancy to Jacques Feyder's satire, as Le Bourgmestre's wife Franþoise Rosay seizes the initiative when her husband decides to feign death in the hope of stopping Spanish duke Jean Murat's troops from decimating their town.
Dutch and Belgian audiences felt their national honour had been impugned by the film, while Feyder was accused during the occupation (which wouldn't occur for another five years) of promoting collaborationism. Ironically, Goebbels also banned the film in Germany, having spotted a parallel between the Spaniards and the Nazis - even though co-scenarist Charles Spaak had produced his original story in the mid-1920s.
A masterpiece of film design and a masterclass in imbuing historical topics with contemporary relevance, this is one of the true gems of French cinema.
Reviewed by David Parkinson