7 November 2020 | ulicknormanowen
The prodigal son
Plot: Jeanne (Huguette Duflos) is Frederic''s (Pierre Renoir) second wife ; it's a reconstituted family for Jeanne had already two sons ,Richard (Georges Rollin) and Georges (Yves Furet) and Frederic fathered a boy,Hubert (Gilbert Gil) and a girl, Fannine .One more child was born of their second union:a ten-year-old Jeannette .
Richard who has been away for a long time ,because he has not forgiven his mom for having married a man he thinks is a fortune-hunter ;without him, the family seems fit to live happily ever after .One day ,Richard returns,and it's the beginning of a feud a la Capulet/Montaigu .To make the matters worse, Hubert is in love with a widow in the neighborhood ,Helène,who happens to be Richard's former flame .And Georges woos Faninne.
Richard ,back in his mom's property,finds a snob bourgeois family and a stepfather he considers a nouveau riche ; to celebrate the prodigal son's come back, they kill the fatten calf :they throw a party where all the aristocracy is invited ,complete with miniature pastries and champagne ;Richard ,unbeknownst to his parents ,has invited people of modest means and a doctor who used to be a family friend but is not the welcome anymore because of his political opinions -the movie remains extremely vague on the subject,what could they say in an occupied country?-
This is the beginning of a family feud,there are now two factions ,who do not eat together,do not talk to each other ; the parents go as far as to sleep apart ,;to visit his beloved Juliet, Georges /Romeo has to use a ladder.Out of the fray ,torn between both families ,Jeanette , some kind of French Shirley Temple , disappears after threatening to throw herself into the lake of the desirable property.A panic-stricken family joins forces to find her back.
It seems that the return of the black sheep of the family will turn everything upside down and that this haughty people will welcome an ex convict or a woman with a racy past , or simply humble people .But further acquaintance shows this : in the first sequence ,as they are gathered for their meal , the father tells again and again how happy they are to be a close-knit family .This so called "revolution" is actually a pretext to rebuild a stronger family with a capital F :the rebel boy will reconcile with his stepfather and everybody will live happily ever after.
These Occupation days ' tenet glorified the family , what they call the Marechal Pétain's moral ;this film , like "le val d'enfer",praised the same values ; but it had another purpose :when the French were having a bad time ,it provided them with a dream life ;in spite of their futile quarrels , the characters live in luxury : they own a desirable mansion ,surrounded by a large park ;they 've got half a dozen of servants at their beck and call ,particularly a fine cook who bakes prunes tart for the prodigal child .
Although featuring a team of excellent actors , based on a good screenplay, with a competent director ,the reactionary side of the work won't be lost on today's audience