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Went the Day Well? review

Went The Day Well? is strange, funny, ironic and violent, a WWII-era film that manages to somehow feel patriotically on-message while also transmitting a not-so-slight suspicion of that same hearth-and-home jingoism. The 1942 film, recently restored and getting a rare week-long run at L.A.’s revival institution the New Beverly, is about a cadre of German soldiers who infiltrate a small English town by posing as British troops in advance of an imminent larger Nazi attack. As the villagers start to notice tell-tale signs of the invaders among them – the way they write their numbers or the brand of chocolate they carry – the natives begin to commit their own acts of subterfuge in preparation for fighting back. Directed by Brazilian transplant Alberto Cavalcanti, from a screenplay based on a story by Graham Greene, under the auspices of the legendary Ealing Studios, the film plays to modern eyes like a crazy mash-up of the basement pub sequence from Inglourious Basterds with Red Dawn, and some of the bucolic pastiche of Hot Fuzz. Letting the audience in on the Germans’ identity early on only serves to charge even the most mundane exchange with a sickly tension, and once the villagers begin their domestic rebellion the level of relief and release almost immediately reaches a fever-pitch. By the time an old lady lunges for a live grenade to save a bedroom full of children, things have gone completely off the map, into territory that is ludicrous and shocking yet also oddly heroic and inspiring. Strange times lead to strange deeds, or as one of masquerading soldiers says early on, “There’s a war on, you know.” (New Beverly Cinema, October 14-20)

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