The Two of Us (1967 film)  

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The Two of Us (Le vieil homme et l'enfant) is a 1967 French film. It starred Michel Simon, Charles Denner and Alain Cohen, and was the first film Claude Berri directed.


Claude (Alain Cohen) is an 8-year-old Jewish boy living in France during the Nazi occupation. To reduce the chance that he would be sent to Auschwitz or a similar fate, his parents send him to live with a farm family, the elderly parents of Catholic friends of his parents. (In reality, many French urban Jews made similar choices for their children.) The elderly couple honestly think that the boy has been sent to live with them because Paris is dangerous; it never crosses their mind that Claude is a Jew.

Claude is given a new last name (Longuet), is taught a few things about Catholic ritual, such as the Lord's Prayer, and most important, is told to never let anyone see his circumcised penis (in 1940s France, only Jews and Muslims were circumcised); thus Claude's strange prudishness at bath time. Otherwise, he plays well the part of boy grateful to be safe in the countryside, building a warm relationship with Pepe (played by veteran character actor Michel Simon) and Meme (Luce Fabiole), his simple and likeable surrogate grandparents. They form a strong and mutually affectionate bond.

There is a fly in the ointment; Claude’s willing protectors share in the prejudices common to their time and place, anti-Semitism included. They deem WWII the fault of Jews—plus Communists, Freemasons, and worst of all, the British who can never be trusted. Pepe even deems Marshal Pétain, the puppet ruling France under Germany’s thumb, a hero. Pepe attempts to pass his anti-semitic convictions on to the boy. The boy plays along with the old man, teasing him about his prejudices but never revealing the truth about himself. And furthermore, Claude begins to believe all the things that Pépé tells him, and ends up in a confused breakdown.

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