Owen Gleiberman
September 20, 1991 AT 04:00 AM EDT


Current Status
In Season
100 minutes
Gerard Depardieu, Philippe Noiret, Gerard Desarthe, Michel Galabru, Michel Blanc
Claude Berri
Claude Berri
Foreign Language, Comedy, Drama

We gave it a B-

The French may well rival the Germans in post-World War II guilt. Claude Berri’s Uranus, which is set in a close-knit French village just after the end of the war, examines the spectrum of ways that ordinary French citizens rationalized their behavior with regard to the Nazis. The movie is like a diagram of Jean Renoir’s famous dictum, ”Everyone has his reasons.”

Only one character, the naive, bookish Loin (Gérard Desarthe), was a full-fledged collaborator. He’s now in hiding, dependent on the pity of his old acquaintances. Yet if most of the people we see didn’t actively support the German occupation, they made their own, subtler accommodations. The movie, which is talky and not very dramatic, nevertheless unfolds in an intriguing ethical Twilight Zone. We’re meant to understand that the accusations the characters keep murmuring at each other are a way of venting their secret fears about their own conduct. Uranus features fine, pinpoint performances from Philippe Noiret, Michel Blanc, and Michel Galabru. On the other hand, is it just me, or has Gérard Depardieu done his rambunctious, starry-eyed man-of-the-people number once too often? As Leopold, an alcoholic bistro owner who writes ”poetry” by counting the syllables on his beefy fingers, Depardieu hams it up so mercilessly that whenever he saunters on-screen, he just about crushes the movie’s delicate ambiguities. B-

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