The Art Dealer: A Jewish family's missing heritage
by Vittoria Scarpa
- In competition in the International Panorama section at the Bari International Film Festival, the film by François Margolin is a journey through a family's secrets and through modern European history
A fine film, in which a family's unmentionable secrets are interwoven with modern European history, and in which memory, identity, art and imagination dance together and intermingle. Undoubtedly a very rich film, screened by French director François Margolin in competition at the Bif&st (21-28 March), in the International Panorama section: The Art Dealer [+see also:
film profile]. Based on a true story, it tells the tale of an impassioned investigation by a young woman, Esther (Anna Sigalevitch). When she happens upon a painting belonging to her grandfather, she sets out in search of the collection of paintings that were stolen by the Nazis from her Jewish family during World War II and never returned.
The cast, which includes some superstars as well as upcoming actors, encompasses three generations: “I wanted to make a movie about the different levels of memory, to compare different generations born in their own time”, explained the director, guest at the Bari Festival. “There’s the war memorial generation, Michel Bouquet and Robert Hirsch, tremendous 90-year-olds who experienced first-hand World War I. There’s the intermediate generation, represented by Esther's father, namely François Berléan, quasi stubbornly shut off in their silence. And then there’s 30-year-old Esther, a fighter in search of the truth, perhaps the first generation that desires to know everything”. From the past, namely from old video clips filmed in Super 8 found by Esther, the faces of Alice de Lencquesaing and Benjamin Siksou also emerge, (they play the girl's grandparents, in the forties) along with Niels Schneider (the controversial family friend, who reappears in the present between reality and imagination).
However, The Art Dealer is not just about historic memory and family ties. The film by Margolin is also a critique of the French State's ambiguous behaviour vis a vis returning this artistic heritage. “I showed the film at the Chamber of Deputies, and various people confirmed that what I've depicted is real”, Margolin tells us. “Too many people sought to cover up the scandals of the war, in the name of rebuilding France. Only a hundred or so works out of thousands have been returned to their rightful owners. It's time we talked about this ‘footnote of history’, as one of the characters in the film calls it, before the last witnesses are no longer with us”.
Produced by Margo Films, the director's company, The Art Dealer was released last week in France, but doesn't yet have international distribution. The film, assures Margolin, will be offered at the next Cannes Film Festival Marché.
(Translated from Italian)