César runs a bar along Marseilles' port, assisted by his 23 year old son, Marius. Colorful characters abound: M. Panisse, an aging widower and prosperous sail maker; Honorine, a fishmonger with a sidewalk stall near the bar; her daughter, Fanny, who helps her sell cockles; and, various old salts. Friends since childhood, Fanny and Marius love each other, but Marius has a secret wanderlust: every ship's whistle stirs a longing for foreign lands. When M. Panisse seeks Fanny's hand in marriage and when a departing clipper needs a deckhand, Marius and Fanny must decide who and what they love most. César, with his generous, comic spirit, tries to guide his son.Written by
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
33 of 40 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this