2 February 2024

Albert Hirschman (Lucas Englander) and Mary Jayne Gold (Gillian Jacobs) in “Transatlantique”, a series created by Anna Winger and Daniel Hendler.


In an artistic and pragmatic gesture – subscribers to SVOD services tend to abuse the “Skip intro” command – the very neat credits of Transatlantic was moved to the end of each episode. Composed of black and white images inspired by surrealism, it testifies to the formal ambition of this series developed by the German Anna Winger (Unorthodox) to pay tribute to a largely forgotten act of resistance.

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Without claiming scientific accuracy, the series is inspired by the singular destinies of journalist Varian Fry (Cory Michael Smith) and wealthy heiress Mary Jayne Gold (Gillian Jacobs), two American expatriates whose activism, at the start of the Second World War, allowed 2,000 European Jews, mainly artists and intellectuals, to leave the continent via Marseille, then in the free zone.

Transatlantic describes the perilous work of bribing the competent authorities and snatching the necessary visas from not necessarily complacent American diplomats, just as much as it endeavors to depict a community of bubbling spirits. First massed at the Splendide hotel in Marseille, where Mary Jayne Gold has her quarters, the candidates for exile gather in the Air-Bel villa, waiting to get the sesame to board. In this almost timeless space, the ghosts of André Breton, Max Ernst, Peggy Guggenheim, Hannah Arendt, Victor Brauner… who continue to paint, compose, write and party, waiting for better days. .

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It is in the villa that Varian and Mary Jayne are most themselves, free for him to live his homosexuality, for her to fall in love with a young resistance fighter. The presence of a few “anonymous” in the villa recalls, in this respect, the injustice that this luxury emigration represents for all those who will not be able to embark.

Documented and anachronistic

Both documented and light, precise and anachronistic, the series does not avoid bizarre conventions – all these French people who speak English so well – and transposes contemporary debates as they stand. Colonial France invites itself to the screenplay in the person of two black employees of the Hotel Splendide, determined to bring together the anti-Nazi and anti-racist struggles. Similarly, Varian Fry’s sexuality, which is of little use in the story, serves above all as a pretext to evoke the fate reserved for homosexuals under the IIIe Reich.

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