9 July 2007 | tomquick
Excellent summer fare
This is one of those movies which should be available, but isn't. I get it out once or twice a year to take a trip back in time. The plot isn't anything special - a farce centered around the birth of an illegitimate child to the son and daughter of the town's baker and grocer. But it's so packed with period detail and dry humor that it never fails to fascinate. The black and white photography is excellent, using the bright Provencal sun to emphasize lights and shadows, and the exterior daylight shots are razor sharp. For this alone it is more watchable than the better known Pagnol films made in the same area 20 years earlier. Fernandel blusters his way through this, clumsy both in gesture and speech, yet capable of machine-gun speed delivery when excited. He is surrounded by a galaxy of amazing bit players - the idiotic facture (Tati does it better, but this is good enough), the droning local politicians and small business owners, the town prude and the town whore, the priest and the two lovers - who serve to round out the image of the little town. As is typical of Franco-Italian collaborations of this period, the film has a side trip across the border, introducing another set of Italian bit players; who gesticulate, balladize, and in general leave Fernandel in a state of complete confusion. Also fascinating is the period rolling stock - the steam train to Italy, and various trucks and buses. Finally, a music score by Nino Rota (of Godfather fame), which is varied but not intrusive. In sum, it's like opening a French time capsule, full of amazing sights and sounds.