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Australia 2016
Directed by
Trevor Graham
95 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
4 stars

Monsieur Mayonnaise

Synopsis: Philippe Mora is a long-established Australian writer, producer, actor and director. He is currently producing a graphic novel about his father, Georges, who spent time in the French Resistance and subsequently escaped the Holocaust. The film traces Mora’s research as he paints the frames for the novel – investigating Georges’ past as well as unearthing the history of his mother, Mirka, and her similarly dramatic escape from the Nazis.

It is best not to say too much about this delightful film jam-packed as it is with history, family anecdotes, and delightful revelations. For anyone who doesn’t know, Georges Mora, after coming to Melbourne, became a much-loved restaurateur for many years, running many eateries including the iconic Tolarno whilst his wife, Mirka, became and is a highly esteemed artist. And so, to put a backstory to these beloved Melbourne folk makes for a fascinating film. Georges’ history in the Resistance, along with his friendship with renowned mime Marcel Marceau makes for a rip-roaring story, as does the unexpected role of mayonnaise (always home-made) to fool the Nazis and save thousands of Jewish lives. The Holocaust is always a tragic and serious issue to handle in film, yet director Trevor Graham allows his subject to approach it with a lightness of hand that informs and even entertains us while never forgetting the gravity of the times. Throughout there is a palpable sense of family connection whilst in the constant ebb and flow of emotion, humour is always just below the surface.

The film, though short, feels sprawling, such is the breadth of its content. Sometimes the director has Philippe Mora talking to camera and demonstrating his work as he painstakingly creates each frame for his novel, something he shares generously with the viewers. In another strand to the film’s style, Philippe functions as a narrator, 1940s noir-style, while banging out his narrative on a typewriter. In other sections he heads off on travels to Paris, Berlin and Los Angeles on the trail of his parents’ story or interviews his wonderfully bohemian mother, letting her tell the tale from her own viewpoint. At times, archival footage is employed both to remind us of the horror of the Holocaust and of past good times in Melbourne..

Philippe Mora has himself directed films as diverse as The Howling III: The Marsupials (1987)) and Mad Dog Morgan (1976), is currently working on a doco about Sir John Monash and one feels that it is his remarkable eclecticism that informs and underpins this entertaining and moving film. Whatever creates the magic, it is a recipe that works just as successfully as the Mora family’s secret recipe for mayonnaise.




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