In 1930s southern France, a father is torn between his sense of honor and his deep love for his daughter when she gets in trouble with the wealthy son of a shopkeeper.In 1930s southern France, a father is torn between his sense of honor and his deep love for his daughter when she gets in trouble with the wealthy son of a shopkeeper.In 1930s southern France, a father is torn between his sense of honor and his deep love for his daughter when she gets in trouble with the wealthy son of a shopkeeper.
And I will go about mine, which is to talk about this movie, which is remarkably moving. Moving in part because Pagnol's script was a masterpiece, yes, but also because this is a very well-done realization of it.
The first thing that struck me about this movie was the color, when you see the scenery. Pagnol, for whatever reason, really didn't do a lot with scenery in his black and white movies. This movie shows what that deprived us of. It is done in the best tradition of the color versions of Jean de Florette, Manon des sources, La gloire de mon père, and Le château de ma mère. The countryside around Salon de Provence comes alive, and is beautiful.
I was also struck by the use of music, which again is not a high point in Pagnol's version. The Italian song, so wonderfully recorded by Caruso, is used in very moving ways here. Auteuil has a better sense of how to use music in a film than Pagnol did, at least with this script.
But the heart of this movie is Pagnol's text, and this cast, a great one, does it beautifully. True, at times, as I marveled at the genius of Pagnol's text, I wondered if that meant these actors were acting it, rather than becoming the characters. That may be true in some cases, though not for Kad Merad, who becomes Philippet every bit as much as Fernandel did. I can hear Raimu reciting the lines Daniel Auteuil speaks, and beautifully, perhaps because they are so different, certainly because Raimu delivered them in a way that engraved them in my memory. But Auteuil makes them very moving as well. He is not a force of nature as Raimu was, but his Pascal is also a real character.
What I realized, over and over again watching this movie, is that the script was indeed written by a playwright, and Auteuil respects that. We still have fully-developed scenes, as movies used to have when they were still imitating theater. And, as a result, with this great script and these great actors, we have deeply moving moments, such as when Pascal says goodbye to his daughter, sending her off to raise her bastard child elsewhere. Or, even more deeply moving, when the parents of the father of her child, having just lost their son in the war, come to see the child, the last remnant of their now lost son. Every line of that scene is deeply moving: Pascal's pride in his grandson, the parents' grief and longing for their son. (I didn't care for the mother's final admission that she burned her son's letter rather than deliver it to Patricia; that was better done in the previous version.)
A film script is like a play: it can be done in more than one way, if it's worth doing - as this script most certainly is. It will not wipe away memories of Pagnol's 1940s version, nor should it. You don't have to forget Olivier's Hamlet to love Jacobi's, or Branaugh's, or ... I suspect the very film snobs who dismiss Pagnol's own work will cause this film not to enjoy the success it deserves, but that would be a real crime. This is, in fact, a wonderful realization of Pagnol's very beautiful, very wonderful script.
I watched this movie again this evening, and really have nothing to add to what I wrote before, other than to say that it is a beautiful realization of Pagnol's script. Auteuil, Merad, and Darroussin are three of modern French film's finest actors, and they all give first-rate performances here. The often wonderful dialogue is delivered as in a great movie or play, lovingly and beautifully. Watch this. It's a deeply moving and wonderful movie.
- Mar 27, 2012