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82 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of John Thaw's Best Performances!
This excellent 4 episode drama, set in a small French town at the beginning of WW2, was made for ITV and stars John Thaw (Morse) as Monsignor Renard - a priest returning to his hometown just as the Nazi's invade France. As he struggles to win back the affection of his estranged brother, and come to terms with his former sweetheart whom he left to join the priesthood,...
Published on 25 Mar 2008 by Scots Lass

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2.0 out of 5 stars French with Yorkshire Accents
To be fair I have only watched one episode so far but that was weeks ago and I don't feel any urge to watch the rest yet. Straight away I was put off by the fact that all the French people speak with regional English accents. Also, having just watched the whole wonderful series of The Sweeney for the first time I can't get used to John Thaw in this pious role. All highly...
Published 7 days ago by Joey Dean


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82 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of John Thaw's Best Performances!, 25 Mar 2008
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This review is from: Monsignor Renard [DVD] (DVD)
This excellent 4 episode drama, set in a small French town at the beginning of WW2, was made for ITV and stars John Thaw (Morse) as Monsignor Renard - a priest returning to his hometown just as the Nazi's invade France. As he struggles to win back the affection of his estranged brother, and come to terms with his former sweetheart whom he left to join the priesthood, Renard finds himself in the role of go between for the villagers and the invading German army.

As Renard fights to keep the townsfolk safe and to solve the problems that occupation brings - girls beginning to date the German soldiers, escaped RAF men needing help, local youths determined to cause trouble whenever they can, children missing after being separated from their parents, not to mention the plight of a Jewish woman and her child - he realises that day to day life in France may never be the same.

One of the local youths (Dominic Monaghan - Lord of the Rings, Lost) in particular is cocky and taunting, but when he finaly goes to far can Renard save him? Some of the German officers are decent and wish to live peaceably with the locals - but Renard is all too aware of the tensions and must try to keep the two sides apart.

With high production values and pacey scripts, this series was perhaps the victim of the costs of making it. Only 4 stories were made. A pity, but perhaps ITV could revisit the series and recast the lead role?

For viewers who enjoyed the ordinary struggles of occupied Jersey depicted in Island at War and Enemy at the Door, Monsignor Renard is a must have series. Fans of John Thaw will welcome one of his finest acting performances in his long and award laden career.
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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Balanced and atmospheric, 27 Dec 2007
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This review is from: Monsignor Renard [DVD] (DVD)
It has been a pleasure to watch this atmosperic and epic film about an upright French priest in occupied France in the 1940s. Setting and cast are convincing, so is the plot. And for once the Germans, Wehrmacht and Geheimpolizei, are depicted in a balanced way; even the German spoken is idiomatic and authentic! All too often Germans in British films sound artificial and as if they were short of breath. Highly recommended (I am German)!
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Second World War Drama, 23 Jan 2009
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This review is from: Monsignor Renard [DVD] (DVD)
Like the two reviews above, I equally found this a highly fulfilling drama series which looked at life in occupied France in a different way to most series of its type, focusing on the first months of occupation rather than on the later years of open resistance.

For me the strength of the series lay not in the exciting nature of the story being told (which was nonetheless interesting) but more so in the way the story was told. For example, as the writer above correctly recognizes, there were good Germans as well as bad ones and evil French characters as well as heroic ones which made the story all the more real. It was fascinating to see that the deterioration of the relationship between the French and Germans in the small town come about not so much (just) because the Germans were oppressing the French but much more so because the nature of occupation itself made maintaining good relations between the occupied and occupier impossible, regardless of intentions (a fact all too clear in modern day Iraq). This fact is driven home in the climatic final scenes where the, on the whole fairly reasonable considering his position, German colonel in charge of the town garrison is forced to take a decision that he himself knows is wrong because that is what his superior orders him to do. The reaction of a very "human" German private further emphasizes this point.

Another part of the series that I found fascinating was the fact it looked at the first months of occupation and not the later years as most French resistance movies tend to do. This was a time when most French still didn't know how to react to the German invaders and didn't know whether armed resistance was the justified or the right reaction to have. This part of the story is very effectively driven home by the character of Monsignor Reinard (John Thaw) who has an ongoing fight with himself to keep his reaction to the German invaders(and more so his influence over his congregation) resistant yet still peaceful. Again the fact that the German occupiers themselves are not just painted in one evil way (as is often portrayed in resistance movies and also as may actually have been more the case in later years of the war) reinforces this point because the msg is too clear that just because a wrong is done to you, does not necessarily justify a violent reaction. You sense that violence will be, as was the case, the inevitable outcome of the occupation but at the same time you get a feeling unlike most Second World War movies that the battle was not for all characters a simple battle of good against evil. However saying this, the movie makes enough references to the horrible things to come (the ½ Jewish mother who flees occupied France to Vichy for example) to make you not forget the horrendous ideology that Nazi Germany had but equally there are enough characters like the drunken German bishop banished to France for speaking out against Nazi idealogy to make one realize that not every German was a believer in such horrendous ideologies, most were rather caught up in the events.

The only criticism I have is that the series left you with a bit of an unfinished feeling, as many of the sub-plots were left unconcluded. However, with hindsight, this does in a way add to the strength of the story as in a way to understand the msg of the movie (if there is one) it is necessary for some stories to be unfinished as part of the charm and interest of this movie is that it focuses on the origins of French resistance rather than on the actual armed resistance itself. Focusing on the origins, allows one to realise that no matter how evil some actions can be, it is never good to over simplify a reaction, as one recent president has done, as doing that can often avoid tackling the routes of the problem itself.

Anyway definitely an insightful and recommended series for anyone interested in what happened in France during the first months of German occupation.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a really good enjoyable watch, 9 Mar 2009
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B. Shallow (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Monsignor Renard [DVD] (DVD)
I really enjoyed this drama series set. It describes the process that a small French town goes through with threatened occupation, the occupation itself, and the interesting tension between the townspeople and the occupying forces. It shows how good leadership can maintain an extremely volatile situation. Monsignor Renard is one of the people; he has a good-humoured friendship with the local alcoholic, his old flame and her husband, the self-serving Mayor. He is able to identify with all the townspeople and yet keep challenging them about their reactions to the German occupiers. He keeps a good line of communication open with the Germans, despite curbing their desire to dominate a people they despise and a role they regard as low status compared with being where the real action is. And yet the real action is here. How will a small insular French town cope with an occupying German force that needs to establish dominance and yet keep life flowing peacfully? This is an inspiring study of good leadership.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Monsignor Renard, 20 Jan 2010
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D. Munroe (Not allowed to say) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Monsignor Renard [DVD] (DVD)
Having watched, but missed, quite a lot of the recent repeated seried on television, and when it was shown originally, when I was a proffessional DJ and out of house most evenings, it was a great treat to be able to buy this DVD set. John Thaw plays a very great part, but, for me, there was the strong sense of helplessness of the French people who watcched their town taken over by the filthy Nazi Boche. What was also hand-gripping was the complete lack of understanding, by the Nazi pigs, of why they were not welcomed and made to feel at home.
Unlike some of the reviews I found the whole set absorbing, well-acted and enjoyable. The sense of sadness I felt that, when I reached the end of Episode 4, there was no more to come. And the stupidity of the commissioning TV station to let down so many viewers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 19 Jan 2010
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Mrs. Pam Pearson (Norwich UK) - See all my reviews
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A great watch. British Drama doing what it always does - the best in the world. Showed the difficulties endured during the 2nd World War.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The injustices of war, 20 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Monsignor Renard [DVD] (DVD)
I did not know what to expect with this film. John Thaw is an exceptional actor who chooses his parts with care and stories of occupation usually leave one feeling sickened by the pointless violence. This film was well scripted retaining the elements of invasion and injustice but turned the message into a portrayal of the power of moral strength. An excellent film.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All too short, 5 May 2013
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Steve Shanahan (ireland) - See all my reviews
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This is John Thaw post-Morse and very good he is too. No surprise there. Sadly, this series was cut off in its prime as was John. Worth having even for its brevity.
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2.0 out of 5 stars French with Yorkshire Accents, 17 Dec 2014
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To be fair I have only watched one episode so far but that was weeks ago and I don't feel any urge to watch the rest yet. Straight away I was put off by the fact that all the French people speak with regional English accents. Also, having just watched the whole wonderful series of The Sweeney for the first time I can't get used to John Thaw in this pious role. All highly subjective of course, but this one is definitely not for me.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but ...................., 3 Mar 2010
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This review is from: Monsignor Renard [DVD] (DVD)
John Thaw on excellent form as a priest in occupied France. Thoroughly enjoyed learning a little more about how the French viewed occupation. However was a little disappointed with the ending. Several questions left unanswered and seemed to leave it open for a sequel. Maybe, tragically, Sir John, as he should have been, died before that was possible.
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Monsignor Renard [DVD]
Monsignor Renard [DVD] by David Wheatley (DVD - 2007)
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