Honoré Panisse is dying, cheerfully, with friends, wife, and son at his side. He confesses to the priest in front of his friends; he insists that the doctor be truthful. But, he cannot ... See full summary »
Honoré Panisse is dying, cheerfully, with friends, wife, and son at his side. He confesses to the priest in front of his friends; he insists that the doctor be truthful. But, he cannot bring himself to tell his son Cesariot that his real father is Marius, the absent son of César, Cesariot's godfather. Panisse leaves that to Fanny, the lad's mother. Dissembling that he's off to see a friend, Cesariot then seeks Marius, now a mechanic in Toulon. Posing as a journalist, Cesariot spends time with Marius and leaves believing tales he is a petty thief. Only after the truth comes out can Marius, Fanny, César, and Cesariot step beyond the falsehoods, benign though they may be. Written by
Having had the good fortune to live a portion of my life in Marseilles, I still get a frisson of nostalgia for the city every time I see the films in this trilogy. The way of life in Marseille has obviously modernised over the 7 decades since they were filmed, but the underlying generosity of spirit and joie de vivre is still there. Marseilles is to Provence and its bourgeois pretensions as London is to its satellite and suburbs: squalid, frenetic and crime-ridden, but nonetheless magnetic. The people of Marseilles still possess the same uniqueness of character that they did back then. A mixture of Italian, Corsican, Maghrebin and French, blended in a huge and historically important trading port. The largest Foreign Legion barracks was (and I believe, still is) in Marseille, ready to be unleashed on the subjects of the French African colonies at a moment's notice.
The port is still (albeit much less so) a smuggler's paradise, and the social life of the city is still centred around good food, good love, and strong drink. Pagnol and Raimu knew the city well, and gave it the starring role in the trilogy. Imagine their joy at being able to relocate a stage play to the Mediterranean coast and use genuine atmospheric exteriors of the old port in all its pre-war glory. The city, and particularly the docks, took a real beating from both sides in WW2, so Pagnol not only created a few masterpieces of cinema, but also an invaluable document of a lost architecture and layout.
The nonsense between L'Academie and Pagnol was related to the prevailing Parisian view of southerners as being crude, unsophisticated people who lived a simple life of manual labour, procreation, drinking and eating (cul terreux). The view from the south that still prevails, is one of a Paris riddled with snobbish elites (peigne cul) totally divorced from the realities of healthy living . The wonderful climate and diet of the Mediterranean coast has long been a source of envy for those condemned by fate to dwell in the damp root vegetable fogs of northern France. Pagnol was gleefully rubbing their noses in it.
Pagnol opened up a lot of avenues in film, but the people of Marseilles remember him mostly for his authentic capturing of la vie quotidienne. I'll drink to that.
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