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After thirteen years in Germany, Fernand is coming back to his wife and his restaurant. But since his disparition, his wife as made her life with a norman chef, sympathetic but a specialist of butter's cooking when Fernand cook only with oil! Written by
Jean-Marie Berthiaume <email@example.com>
This is probably one of the most underrated comedies coming out of the whole of French cinema. It contains two of its' "monstres sacrés" ( pillars ), Fernandel and Bourvil, indeed it was the first time the two played together. Shot for the most part in the town of Martigues, close to Marseille in the Bouches-du-Rhône department near to the Mediterranean coast. Martigues is very picturesque and is known locally as the "Venise Provençale" ( provençal Venice ) because of its criss-cross network of canals. All this makes for very picturesque and provençal surroundings plus the local accents which all add flavour to this film.
The premise of the film is that Fernand who had once run a provençal restaurant in this town and left to go to fight in the war in the north, never returned and was presumed dead. In fact he did not die but married again an austrian girl from the Tyrol ( Gerda ) and remained with her, that is until the day her husband returned from Siberia, which means Fernand had to take off back to Southern France. But, this episode having lasted fourteen years, Fernand's first wife has since remarried Bourvil, also in the restaurant trade, but into Normandy cooking - you need to know that Normands cook everything in butter whereas the people from the south of France use olive oil to cook with and tremble at the thought of using butter.
There is therefore a sort of comparison of the two different types of cooking and Fernand returns to Martigues to find his wife remarried, however he is accepted into the household through the kindness of Bourvil but the restaurant has now become more high-class than before and Fernand's old friends are not welcome in the place. All this makes for light-hearted comedical conflicting situations. Also, administratively, Fernand is considered dead, his name appears on the war memorial. He must signal he is alive to then be able to divorce his first wife, that she may legally remarry her second husband, who up to now is considered a "mari putatif" !! This means that he is nothing more than a "presumed" husband as compared with a real one. The poor guy who thought he had happily been married for several years now has doubt thrown on the validity of his marriage and this puts him in a more-than-foul mood which even goes as far as his returning to his native Normandy.
Happily a solution is found to all this, which I shall not reveal here. Suffice it to say that the acting is absolutely GREAT ! Any fan of Bourvil and/or FERNANDEL should not miss this film on any account - it is available on DVD in France but regrettably again with no subtitles of any kind for non-French speakers. I have no idea at all whether it is known outside this country but it would certainly appear to be underrated as regards the magnificent interplay between the two main actors.
I have seen this film in a colour version but the DVD has a black and white one, so must assume that it has been colorized at one stage of its life.
The theme music is also a catchy tune which remains in your head long after the film has finished. And the director is .... oh, that man again, Gilles Grangier. I certainly seem to end up being attracted to everyone of this gentleman's films ! How strange !
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