This version of the famous novel by Hector Malot begins in England (which lets the cat out of the bag very soon for those who do not know the plot):the wicked uncle wants to latch on to the Mulligan heritage and has got to get rid of all the male heirs;one of them-the other is a sick child called Arthur-Remi was to be killed by the kidnapper who took pity on him and entrusted him to the Barberin's safekeeping.
Safekeeping? If the woman (Mere Barberin) is a loving mom,who makes crepes for her fostered kid,her husband is a crude brute ,whose affairs in Paris went wrong and left him an embittered man ,who does not want another mouth to feed;thus he sells Rémy to a busker who takes the boy on all the roads of the country with his troupe of animals :three dogs and a monkey.
This is the a very faithful version,much more than the color fifties version ;the scenes on the boat 'Le Cygne" (the swan)are included and like in the book,Remy is given choice:shall he stay on the comfortable boat or shall he follow again Vitalis -a former opera singer who had to call it a day when his voice failed ?
Some chapters were not treated but it's a mammoth novel:for instance the episode in Auvergne and the coal mine tragedy were ruled out.
Back in London,you feel the influence of Dickens on Malot:Driscoll,Rémy's false dad,is some kind of Fagin and he teaches his sons and daughters the tricks of the "trade".
Marc Allégret does not transcend the 1878 tear jerker work ,but at least he keeps the most memorable episodes (particularly that of the crepes)
NB :Robert Lynen,who plays Remi,was discovered by JuLien Duvivier (the much superior "Poil De Carotte"" ),became a resistant fighter during the war and was shot by the Germans in a fortress in Karlsruhe.
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