Biography / Documentary / History / Horror
Biography / Documentary / History / Horror
Monsieur Mayonnaise is an artist's epic adventure into his family's secret past. Australian artist and film-maker, Philippe Mora, investigates his father's clandestine role in the French Résistance in WW2 and his mother's miraculous escape enroute to Auschwitz. Philippe, a Hollywood cult-horror movie director and pop-artist, adopts a Film Noir persona to tell his family's story. He also packs his paints and easel, as he embarks on a journey to create an audacious comic book about his parents, their survival and the Holocaust. From LA to Berlin, Paris to Melbourne, Monsieur Mayonnaise is a richly layered, road movie starring artists, real life heroes, Nazi villains ... and baguettes with lashings of tasty French mayonnaise!
April 01, 2023 at 09:37 AM
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A quirky look at Melbourne cultural icons' experiences in Europe in the latter part of WW2
Mirka Mora and her former husband Georges were Melbourne icons in the hospitality and modern visual arts fields. From their arrival in Melbourne in 1951, having left Paris in 1947 for New York, they became leading lights in local artistic and hospitality circles, championing Bohemian lifestyles and French cuisine.
This impressionistic documentary film was co-produced and written by Trevor Graham, but is dominated by their son Philippe, an established New York based graphic novelist, artist and maker of horror films. It reports Philippe's findings when he looked into his well known parents' past. He travels to many of the locations involved, sets up his easel and paints cartoons for the graphic novel; interviews as many of the people who were significant in his parents' lives and decisions as he could find (many had passed away) and intersperses the result with original film excerpts, photographs and his own impressions.
The tale is hauntingly sad, a personal insight into how one family and those surrounding them made the most of very little in the horrors of the second world war in France, Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Truth can be stranger than fiction, and the sheer lucky twists and turns, supported by their humanity and selflessness underpins the story.
All people appearing do so as themselves, and Phillippe's decisions on approach and selection is refreshing and quirky. I found it a highly impressionistic film, unpredictably jumping around, but told the story in a very relatable way. It provides shocking insights into the awfulness of world war two through specific people's eyes and experiences.
It took me a while to get into the rhythm of the film, and it seemed longer than it was, particularly the earlier sections. I think I may have been expecting more recent material and more about their time and lives in Australia, but it is mostly about their experiences before they arrived. I don't think it will matter if you know a lot or nothing about Georges and Mirka Mora - the film tells the story without assuming prior knowledge.
Less than meets the eye
Monsieur Mayonnaise (2016) is an Australian documentary that was co-produced, written, and directed by Trevor Graham. The film is about the graphic artist Philippe Mora. It follows Mora as he looks into his family's past, and turns what he learns into a graphic novel.
The publicity for the film emphasizes the true fact that Mora's father, Dominic Mora, was a heroic member of the French Resistance. In fact, he and Marcel Marceau found a way to use baguettes with mayonnaise loaded with garlic to send secret documents. Although this is fascinating, it's actually just a small part of the movie. (However, it's where the title Monsieur Mayonnaise originated.)
Mora's mother and father moved to Australia after the war ended, and were part of a very active artistic circle. All this is converted by Mora into his graphic novel.
The film struck me as entertaining, but too self-referential and self-serving. Mora is an interesting artist, but graphic, comic-book style art is not my thing. His father was truly a hero, but the book Mora created wasn't about heroism, it was about Mora and his family. It wasn't a bad film, but it wasn't a great film either.
We saw the movie in the beautiful JCC Hart Theater, as part of the outstanding Rochester International Jewish Film Festival. We saw 12 films at the festival, most of which were truly excellent. For me this movie was the weak link, but not everyone is going to be enchanted by every film.
The RIJFF itself is worth a special trip if you live anywhere in Upstate New York. Get on their mailing list, because some of the films will be shown again in the next 12 months. Plan to attend RIJFF in 2018 if you can. You'll be happy you did.