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"Sarah's Key": Holocaust Movie Wrings Sentimentality from Atrocity 

Wednesday, Aug 3 2011

Exposing a little-known piece of Holocaust history — the Vel' d'Hiv roundup, in which French police arrested thousands of Jews in Paris in July 1942 — Sarah's Key dutifully follows the template of scores of movies about the Shoah: wringing from atrocity the most unseemly sentimentality. The film toggles between the past — as 10-year-old Sarah Starzynski (Melusine Mayance) and her parents are taken from their Marais home and penned up in the Velodrome d'Hiver, a cycling arena in the 15th Arrondissement, before being sent to a nearby internment camp — and the present, focusing on Julia (Kristin Scott Thomas), an American journalist in Paris who's writing an article about the all-but-buried episode. In the course of her research, Julia discovers some uncomfortable truths about her French in-laws' connection with the Starzynski family; wading through the mawkish muck, particularly during plot threads involving her "miraculous" middle-age pregnancy and tracking down Sarah's adult son, the bilingual and normally unimpeachable Scott Thomas sounds as if she has learned a Yank accent via Rosetta Stone. Based on Tatiana de Rosnay's novel and co-written by director Gilles Paquet-Brenner and Serge Joncour, Sarah's Key is filled with the usual meaningless bromides, concluding with Scott Thomas' voiceover declaration: "When a story is told, it is not forgotten." This film vanishes from memory immediately.

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Melissa Anderson

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