Why do people romanticize France

"L’Algérie, c’est la France!"

Algiers, 1960: In the heat-filled streets of the Algerian capital, residents gather for prayer. In the middle of the prayer rugs, a young French man also falls on his knees, crosses himself and prays. He has just committed his first killing on behalf of the French secret service, so you have to be able to deal with that somehow.

It is not easy for André Merlaux to assert himself as an agent. His new colleagues can hardly take him seriously because of his communion suits, the vain superiors eye him critically because his father, who died in the war, is said to have been a collaborator, and the bad habits of the French bureaucracy troubles him. The loss of the colonies and the threat of the Third World War are hardly as bad for the officials as a non-stamped expense claim that was not submitted in duplicate. To make matters worse, he falls in love with the daughter of the secret service chief Maurice Mercaillon, known as Le Colonel.

"France against the rest of the world" (Au service de la France) is a successful satire on French politics, culture and society at the time of Gaullism. Merlaux ’colleagues Roger Moulinier, responsible for Africa and Jacky Jacquard, Algeria, are dandies and bon vivants who have to struggle more with addiction to gambling and betting, a good hangover or maintenance demands from the colonies than with real problems. The third in the group is the grotesque Jean-René Calot. He oversees activities in the Eastern Bloc and, while paranoid looking for a mole, cannot completely rule out whether he is not the double agent himself. They sometimes go on strike together because an attractive expense allowance from the time of the Vichy regime is at stake or invent the concept of hijacking an airplane because they arrest an Algerian terrorist and a game by the French national rugby team in Wales want to see.

Everyday racism and sexism are omnipresent in the form of colonial revisionism ("L’Algérie, c’est la France!" - Algeria belongs to France, a constant catch phrase) and an absolutely backward image of women as lovers and secretaries. But one does not romanticize the past, but skilfully targets the negative aspects of the time and offers numerous opportunities for extensive reflection. The romantic image that many have of the wild 60s is thus dissolved.

During the first season, viewers accompany André in his training to become a top French spy. The dark secret of Le Colonel is also revealed. He had collaborated with the Germans himself and, after the war, blamed Andrés father for his deeds and made a career for himself. A nerve-wracking game of cat and mouse finally leads to Andrés' apparent death in the finale. Now justice must be restored in season two.

Murder, manslaughter and bizarre action are rare features in the Arte production. In times when James Bond and Co. have to act more and more brutally and explosively on the cinema screens in order to lure people off the couch, the biting series from France is a welcome change in the agent genre.

Above all, Arte proves with the series that even classic TV stations are still able to produce entertaining, high-quality series of interest. A specialty in times of dominance and ubiquity of Amazon and Netflix Originals.

France versus the rest of the world, Arte; both seasons can currently be streamed on Netflix

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