The past few weeks I have been binge-watching Un Village Français – a French television series (in French with English subtitles) that originally aired between 2009 and 2016. The series was filmed in various locations around Limousin, but set in the fictional town of Villeneuve in eastern France, located somewhere around Besançon near the Vichy demarcation line, during World War II. Currently available on MHz in Canada and Netflix in the U.S., two or three episodes of this series have been filling my October evenings. I am currently about half way through the series (and thus halfway through the war because, like Mad Men, every season represents a year) and I am consistently impressed by the quality and accuracy of the costuming.
Historian Jean-Pierre Azéma, a specialist in the Second World War, was an historical adviser for the series, and you can tell accuracy was a goal for the production. In the quest for authenticity, costume designer Thierry Delettre explained in an interview with a French newspaper that he referred to Dominique Veillon’s book ‘Fashion Under Occupation’ for his fashion information. I also detect a lot of research in period fashion mags including L’Officiel, which the character Mme Schwartz seems to follow religiously (that’s her above in the grey and white tartan pattern suit, and black and white hat). Delettre was not interested in reinventing wartime French fashions, his goal was to recreate it. “I am a conductor. I have a team with me of dressmakers, tailors, bootmakers. However, the costume designer is not, as in fashion, a designer of clothes. He provides the silhouettes for the characters and participates in the artistic development of the film” explained Delettre.
From military costumes and couture to guerrilla armbands and yellow stars, Delettre recreates a wide swath of characters who all struggle with their ‘shades of grey’ moral involvement with the war, from collaboration to resistance. If you liked Mad Men and Foyle’s War, you will like Un Village Français.