|Index||10 reviews in total|
This is, of course, the first leg of one of the all-time great trilogies and Londoners were able to see all three - weighing in at a little over six hours - in one day recently. When you know that a given title was made at the dawn of the talkies - in this case 1931 - you go prepared to make allowances if only subconsciously but such is the artistry on display here you soon forget even that and just bask in superb ensemble playing led by the irreplacable Raimu. An Academic writing about 'French' film recently dismissed Pagnol as a 'minor' writer. Yeah, you didn't misread. These are the guys entrusted with the further education of a whole generation. Personally I don't know how many 'minor' writers are invited by the Academie Francaise to join its ranks but Pagnol (who at the time the trilogy was made was the youngest writer to be admitted to this august body) isn't one of them. I shouldn't really write the words Academic and Pagnol in the same sentence because Pagnol is a dirty word in Academe. The reason? He's POPULAR and, by definition, 'accessible' which means that the average Joe can UNDERSTAND what he's saying and where he's coming from thus leaving nothing for the Academics to 'interpret'. Write a book that three people buy and one of them understands about 40 per cent of and you've got it made academic-wise. You'll be 'taught' for years and academics will write books ABOUT your book in inpenetrable jargon that only OTHER academics can understand - it's the written equivalent of a Masonic handshake. So no laurels for Pagnol. So what. This first episode - and each of the three stories is self-contained despite featuring the same locale and characters; Alan Ayckbourn did much the same thing 50 years later with 'The Norman Conquests' - spreads the tablecloth and sets out the banquet; locale: the waterfront, Marseilles; principals; Cesar, the bar owner, Marius, his son, Fanny, the ingenue, in love with Marius, Panisse, the sail-maker also in love with Fanny though 30 years older; supporting characters; Honorine, mother to Fanny, and Claudine, sister to Honorine, Piquoiseau, Escartifigue, Monsieur Brun, light relief. These are the basic threads which Pagnol weaves into a tapestry to rival that of Bayeux. Having set the scene masterfully and introduced us to the characters we get the conflict: Fanny loves Marius, Marius loves Fanny but he also loves the sea and waiting in the wings is Panisse in case the lure of what Gene O'Neill describes as 'dat ol' debbil sea' proves too much. Incredibly the citizens of Southern France, Toulouse, Avignon, etc, though highly intelligent and sensitive still feel bitter and resentful and unforgiving of Pagnol whom they see as someone who portrayed them as little more than buffoons. This first part gives the lie to that accusation. 9/10
Although Marius was primarily written for the stage, Pagnol brilliantly adapted this very theatrical piece to the screen. With the complicity and mastery of Korda's impeccable direction, while talkies were still in their infancy and sound recording was still a challenge, Marius flawlessly delivers high quality dialogues with superb photography of pre-war Marseilles accompanied by a suitable musical score. What is timeless in this masterpiece is the depth of the characters, their emotions, their trials, their flaws and their yearnings, all bathed in the humour unique to Pagnol and the spicy flavour of Southern French. I saw this movie for the first time when I was 9 years old - I was in awe - and for fifty years since have seen it a number of times. I don't think I'll ever grow tired of watching it again and again. A timeless piece!
Although a film in subtitles, it easily translates into any language through the universal language of the heart. Pagnol was a strong believer that even though sound was a new and amazing convention in cinematography, it could not be taken advantage of. This belief is readily apparent in Marius. Marius is filled with wonderful dialogue, heartwarming scenes, and emotional relationships. Furthermore, the characters of Cesar and Marius were played to perfection. This film is one that breaks the barrier of time. Even though it may be seventy years old, its themes will universally touch all of those who watch it for ages and generation
I don't know how much new I have to say about this movie that others have not said already. I have watched this movie over and over, I have had the pleasure of teaching it in a French literature and culture course. Every time I watch it I marvel at how well it is done. The acting is uniformly excellent - but then, these actors had performed the play from which this movie was drawn hundreds of times and had been hand-picked by Pagnol. They will definitely strike modern audiences as theatrical, but that is one of the points Pagnol was making about the people of Marseille: they were fond of drama and "performed" in life. The script is clever, and sometimes hilarious. Scenes like 1) César teaching Marius how to make a mandarin-citron (a drink); 2) César, Panisse, Escartefigue, and M Brun playing a round of cards with César cheating; 3) Marius fuming when Panisse makes passes at Fanny in the bar; and many others are even funnier the 10th time than the first. The music is wonderful. In short, this movie is a marvel, full of acting gems. See it!
This movie is extremely similar to the first half or so of the movie
Fanny (1961) and in many places it is almost word-for-word. All in all
it is an exceptional movie and well worth watching.
Fanny (1962) is a remake that combines this movie and the two sequels, Fanny and César. All are great, though the cinematography and music make the remake a better picture (the trilogy had no music).
Overall, it was extremely well-acted and well-written and I strongly recommend it. However, be forewarned that the videotape by Interama Video Classics is VERY poor quality AND they use white subtitles that are often very hard to read. I don't know why, but nearly EVERY French film from the 1930s I have tried to watch on video is almost unwatchable due to the degradation of the print. I'm not sure why this is, but it could easily turn people away from classics like this movie, and that would be quite a loss.
With its stagy direction, its straightforward storyline and its lovable
character depictions this first part of Marcel Pagnol's Marseilles
trilogy offers a welcome relief from today's often all too florid
Of course, it all seems quite broad, static and dated at first, but if you look behind the theatrics, the powerful sincerity and humanity of Pagnol's vision - coupled with some wonderful performances and the writing's flawless mélange of bitterness and sweetness, of jocular humour and heartwarming sentiment, of life's average highs and lows - more than make up for it.
8 out of 10 cuckolded sailors
This is a classic movie. I watched this one 10 times. Lots of humor, it represents France in the 30's in Marseille. What is interesting are the dialogues and cast of characters. One of the best movies of Pagnol and an excellent role for Raimu.
1931 was quite a year for movies, while the talkies started in the late
20's with "The Jazz Singer", it's only in 1931 that directors found
better than fluffy Broadway comedies to reach the audiences and made
the first classic talking pictures, from seminal gangster movies
"Little Caesar" and "The Public Enemy" to horror landmarks "Dracula"
and "Frankenstein", each films providing iconic moments and, for the
first time, immortal quotes establishing in the most complete way the
different aspects of cinema's appeal: characters, visuals, special
effects but also an art-form of the verb. Edward G. Robinson would be
one of the first voices with a specific intonation and accent and
inevitably, the first to ever be parodied and remembered, see?
And in France, it's only fair that one of the first voices to ever "grace" the screen (so to speak) and to also be imitated would have the singing intonation of that French Provence accent, the Mediterranean South with that "Little Italy" touch, where people display a temperament of histrionic bad faith but ultimately pride and a heart, as big as forty 'Cannebières' all contained in the magnificent baritone voice of Jules Muraire aka Raimu aka César, the bartender of Marseilles. It is very interesting that the film is most remembered for the scene where he plays a French version of pinochle with his friends and to lure his teammate Captain Felix Escaterfigue (Paul Dullac) to play the "heart", he keeps repeating "you break my heart" and it only gets hilarious because Felix can't figure what he means until it becomes apparent for everyone but him. And in the most childish way, César acts offended when he's finally accused by Panisse (Honoré Chapin) who wasn't the brightest bulb either.
That's what Alexandre Korda's "Marius" is about actually: heart and playing, or cheating, French viewers remember "You're breaking my heart" and repeat it with the same accent as one would quote Arnie with Austrian robotic tone, but it takes the viewing of "Marius" to see how emblematic to the story this scene is: the film is about people in love, it's a romance, a love triangle between three characters who know as much about love as they know about themselves, and that's exactly what either drives or undermines their momentum. Young César's son Marius (Pierre Fresnay) is in love with little seashell merchant Fanny (Orane Demazis) and daughter of fish store owner Honorine (Alida Rouffe) but after years of wandering in Marseilles' streets and watching ships sailing to the seven seas, the call of the sea got louder and louder.
And there's Panisse who's a widower in his fifties and can only offer his money, he's respectful enough to Fanny that he takes his time to court her, makes no lies about his intention and even approaches her mother Honorine; in the process, he also makes a rival out of young impetuous Marius. Fanny is torn between a young man she loves but conveniently never admitted her love and one proposing a marriage of convenience. And in the middle of this conflict, César is the (not so) passive observer, acting more like a Greek chorus to a tragicomedy full of such larger-than-life characters that even this two-hour movie couldn't sustain it. That's the power of Pagnol's characters, they didn't wait for the film to be fully developed, the film didn't need any exposition, the characters are here, and when the movie ends, we're looking forward to the sequel "Fanny".
A few people can create a world that feels realer than the real world, and with a slice of Provence's life, Pagnol made a real "Human Comedy" à la Balzac that would forever enchant French culture and lead to the two-parters "Jean de Florette / Manon of the Spring" and "My Father's Glory / My Mother's Castle". But let's get back to the one that started them all: there's a lot to say about "Marius", it provides the first sound to ever reach the hearts and screens of people, the visual quality gets blurry at time, but this is a movie as complete and professional as any creation and with a little screeching sound that almost resonates like the grasshoppers of the countryside. "Marius" carried the word 'iconic' because of the accent, the landscape but more than anything, the performance of Raimu whom Orson Welles called the "greatest actor alive", and seriously, I've rarely seen such natural and modern performances in an "old" movie.
It takes you to know French or have subtitles to appreciate the film but even without understanding a word, you can see how authentic everything is. The film is adapted from a successful play, but it doesn't feel theatrical at all unless you consider theatrical the tantrums of these Mediterranean fellows. Indeed, it brings France to the talkies' era without needing a genre: no horror, no gangster, just a simple but high drama about life and decisions to take. The climax is the culmination of such torments. We are used to see people who must make a choice between heart and reason, but for the first time, we also have the choice of instinct, and the center of the choice is "Marius" who must think of his love for Fanny, her reputation and his all-time dreams. The conflict is so tense that we can even feel the smell of the sea.
Right again, a very specific story with very specific characters but one of universal implications like Marcel Pagnol knows how to craft, and how fitting that the man born the same year than Cinema would contribute to the film that marked the birth of French Cinema. Of course, I mean modern cinema because Cinema was born French already and the first film was the famous train arriving at La Ciotat not far from Pagnol's hometown Aubagne or from Marseilles, the setting (and heart) of the Provence trilogy.
Marcel Pagnol's famous 'Marsellaise Trilogie' (Marseilles Trilogy) consists of three films, successively MARIUS, FANNY, and CÉSAR (each one named after a leading character), made over a period of six or seven years with the same actors playing the same characters. This trilogy of films thus anticipated by eight decades the bold (and one is glad to say, successful) experiment of the film BOYHOOD (2014, see my forthcoming review), which was made with the same actors playing the same characters over a period of 12 years. Those who have expressed their justified admiration for the wonderful film BOYHOOD should take note that Pagnol was there long before them in showing people's lives evolving before the eyes of the camera over many years. All three of the films in the trilogy were written by Marcel Pagnol, who produced them all, but each one was directed by a separate person, with Pagnol himself directing the third and last. This one was directed by 'Alexandre' Korda, as Alexander Korda was known then. All three of the films are immensely powerful and harrowing emotional dramas, which are filled also with hilarious comedy and fun. Pagnol's brilliant scripts capture all the piquancy and spice of the traditional indigenous Marseilles wit (a mixture of good-natured insults such as 'your wife's fish soup is the worst in Marseilles', plenty of white lies and cheating at cards, rascasse, ballan wrasse, lotte, red mullet, and jokes), with much comedy resulting from Pagnol affectionately making fun of his characters' enthusiastic lack of even the most basic logic, and bizarre habits. The film is made in the Old Port of Marseilles (we see little of the rest of the city), and the creaking of the masts of the moored oceanic sailing ships at the quay is turned up loud on the soundtrack to accentuate the atmosphere and 'the call of the sea'. The story is largely set in the Bar de la Marine on the quay, which is owned and run by the larger-than-life local character named César. His handsome son, Marius, is either 20 or 23 (the scripts vary on this point) and helps his father run the bar. But Marius secretly longs to go to sea in one of the big sailing ships, and as the story progresses, he admits to it being like a madness which afflicts him, his passionate longing to journey to faraway places with exotic names which are always being discussed by the sailors. Ever since he was a child, he has wanted to 'run away to sea', as many young men did in those days. Pagnol, who was from this part of the world, must have known some personally. In this longing, Marius is encouraged by a deranged former sailor who keeps egging him on, and sea captains who want to recruit sturdy young men like Marius for their long voyages. Marius's mother died years before, and he and his father are closely bonded because they have no one else in the family. Just outside the bar is a small shellfish stall run by a young girl of 18 named Fanny. She has been passionately in love with Marius since they were in primary school together. She lives with her widowed mother Honorine on the same quay. Honorine has a separate fish stall, while Fanny sells the shellfish to passers-by. Nearby at the end of the quay is a sail-maker's shop (voilerie) owned by the wealthy and childless widower, Honoré Panisse, aged 50. He has proposed to Fanny, but she has rejected him. Marius is unaware of Fanny's devoted love for him, and thinks only of the sea. These, then, are the simple folk who form the main characters of the three successive film dramas (total duration 375 minutes) which are so brilliantly performed by the inspired cast that they become epic tales mingling the tragedy of Aeschylus with the comedy of Aristophanes, and all on a quay in Marseilles of which one might truly say by way of tribute that 'all the world's a quay'. Although much of the action of these films takes place in closed spaces such as the bar, there is not a single moment in the entire epic saga when one feels that what one is watching on screen is in any way 'stagey' or confined to a small set. The dominant character of César is played by that master-magician of the French screen, Raimu. He and the others all have total mastery of Marseillaise body-language. The way Raimu takes off his apron and wraps it up without thinking, as if he had really done this every day of his life, the way he mixes Honorine's 'mandarine and lemon' drink without even looking at the bottles, every object he reaches for, every doorknob he turns, every gesture he makes, - all of these details bring the character so alive that you cannot believe for an instant that Raimu has ever been anything other than a barkeeper on the quay of the Old Port. How otherwise could he do all of these minutely detailed movements heedlessly and automatically, just as one drives a car sometimes on mental autopilot? Marius, played by the dashing Pierre Fresnay in a neckerchief and with spit-curls on his forehead, is the same. He too seems to have lived and moved always in the bar. Did the cast live on set? How did these miracles of verisimilitude of screen performance occur? And then there is the perfectly cast Orane Demazis as young Fanny. Her heart-rending performance throughout as the love-stricken girl is so pitifully moving that she can bring tears to the viewer's eyes just by throwing herself on the shoulders of people in her recurring despair. She is pretty without being beautiful, and as a slender, unprepossessing dreamy young virgin, she is exactly what a shellfish girl from the quay would have been in those days. Here is authenticity etched in the gold of genius.
Memory here deceived, up to a point. Re-viewing, as in once more, twice?, seems to point to the fact that a 7.9 is more than accurate and the belated doffing of a cap to ALL concerned is more than merited. Bearing in mind that this film was made in '31, and that contemporary values of technology and perception can NOT, logically, be applied, this first shot out of the Marcel Pagnol "Msrseilles trilogy" is more than heartwarming AND entertaining, even as today's sensibilities must find contrivances and convenient dramatic license offputting. As with too many romances and reminiscences, the distaff love interest appears, at least to these eyes, much too "mature" for the part, and the callow "juvenile" male lead by that token even more immature. Orane Demazis rolls her eyes in the best Eisenstein tradition and manages to faint sans limpness, but still, somehow, also manages to stay in character, even as Pierre Fresnay's period "haircut" proves distractingly jug-eared. That said, there remains the promise of the adult, mature, and eminently sophisticated docteur of "Le Corbeau" to come. I also found my reactions careening back to Betty Fields and Robert Cummings in "Kings Row." Worse yet, I began, in Fresnay's case, to muse upon the likes of the young Robert Montgomery, and Franchot Tone, and Tyrone Power, although, of that trio, only the first ever "matured" into an actor beyond mere persona. But to get back from the peripherals to the true heart of this matter, which is to say, Marcel Pagnol AND Raimu, their substance remains, excesses of sentiment and comedy notwithstanding, authentic AND reassuring. Warm and hearty, like a good country "stew"? And I personally found the asides about the Parisian haut monde's sniffishness at the Midi provincialisms amusing, and the revelation that the producer assured the director HE was replaceable and Raimu not. Finally, here, has anyone else noted the visual parallels, not to mention the "character" asides herein, a full five years BEFORE Carne's "Quai des Brumes"? Is the latter beholden tot he former? And can ANYthiing be, literally, "original"?
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