Aventure Malgache and Bon Voyage (UK, 1944)

Jolly japes for the spies

Jolly japes for the spies

World War noir

World War noir

It’s not likely anybody, other than historians, would be interested in these short propaganda films if they hadn’t been directed by Alfred Hitchcock. But they are interesting from a historical-cultural perspective, the representation of the colonised Malgache (ie virtually non existent),  as propaganda and as Hitchcock movies.

As propaganda they, as this excellent piece suggests, are too ambiguous; there’s no totally one-sided jingoism and that may one of the reasons they were never shown when they were made. Both are aimed at a French audience, they’re wholly in French, and show in Aventure Malgache colonial resistance to Vichy; the colonials being the French. African faces are strictly, and understandably for the time, in the background. Bon Voyage is more obvious Hitchcockian territory with an escape from France by British soldiers aided by the Resistance. However, the former film is infused with Hitch’s mordant wit and the latter includes a harrowing shot where a female member of the Resistance is forced at gun point to convey a phone message and is then shot dead: all filmed in close up on her face.

Maybe the films were simply Churchill’s way of giving the French in England something useful to do where they couldn’t get in the way. As the characters in Aventure say, their choice is to be German or Japanese slaves, or to bend their knee to the British: Hobson’s choice.

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