Resistant Resistance

Among the swooning French natives following France’s post-WWII liberation, Robert and Manon carry on their brutish romance. Neither can let their wartime experiences go, the things that hold them together and push them apart. It’s schmaltzy, at times forced, even difficult.

Manon eschewed the post-war vibrancy though. France is still unstable. Nazis still linger. The economy barely lives, aside from those willing to exploit the system. Manon is as much a tragedy of truth as it is love.

First meeting Robert (Michael Auclair), Manon (Cecile Aubry) speaks gleefully about the Nazis. They kept her fed. She danced with them, even manipulated them. A sexual undercurrent drives the conversation. Robert asks about the death camps. “I’m not into politics,” she responds, possibly too naive, or willingly ignoring the truth for her own survival. War was good to her; it kept her alive.

That’s the type Manon narrows on, those who exploit leftover penicillin for profit, Nazi sympathizers, the rich, but not France’s fighting force. It’s a remarkably cold, callous film. Double that for something labeled a romance. That Robert and Manon initially meet in a bombed out church among broken saint statues speaks to the shattered morals.

Manon puts forward an utterly broken relationship

War changed everyone in Manon. Some people live in panic they’ll lose everything. Others enjoy the moment brought about with Germany’s defeat. Others still unduly suffer, having lost their home. Manon brings all of these elements to her own. She never wants to be poor again; Nazis gave her all she wanted, morals be damned. Robert cannot match their riches, with Manon putting forward an utterly broken relationship.

Robert chokes her, then begs for forgiveness. Manon joins a brothel, then pleads for Robert’s sympathy. As a pair, they see the world all too differently, one seeking order after fighting in the resistance, the other beneficial chaos where looks create easy profits. Manon is not pitiful – she’s only one class above a villain (Robert not any more so), the naive type who let the Nazi regime spread through Europe. And yet, Manon appears attracted to abuse and hurt, indicating a life filled with trauma. Stability is only a means to more hurt.

In bringing Manon to film, it’s caught in a French haze, melodramatic to the end. Shots pull the screen pairing together forcefully, the weeping score effusive for their attraction. It’s a lot, doing anything to keep these broken people near each other, the wartime context enough to justify the maudlin actions. In the final frames, the gusto is there. Manon, it turns out, was justified in her need to repel. That’s a credibility romantic dramas often lack.


While mixed, Arrow’s transfer for Manon offers high-grade materials. Damage is near non-existent until faded scratches and gate weave find their way into the final frames. Impressive gray scale gives Manon superlative depth and contrast. While slightly clipped in the brightest exteriors, the imagery is otherwise controlled. Black levels sacrifice no detail.

Hazier cinematography limits pure definition, although this doesn’t mean sharpness lags. Occasional facial detail breaks free, and a devastated France lets the added resolution display the ruins in full.

It’s possible this print was reconstructed via multiple sources. Grain lacks consistency. In one early scene, it swells as if a wave, sticking to characters as they move. In another, it looks entirely digital. Elsewhere, it’s fine and organic. Mostly however, grain appears pleasing with natural presence and no digital alteration.


Swelling frequently in the upper registers, PCM mono performs admirably. Treble’s firmness crisply transfers this late ‘40s source to modern systems. Even a small touch of bass factors in.

Dialog survives too, rendered precisely. Slight, lightly discernible static is noted, but unobtrusive.


A ‘70s era documentary on director H.G. Clouzot runs 46-minutes, while an appreciation from critic Geoff Andrew runs 22-minutes. An image gallery follows.

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While strained in dramatic credibility, Manon’s post-WWII romance bravely deflated some of the joy of a Nazi defeat.

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