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Thursday, February 5, 2009

MARIUS (1931)

The initial installment of Marcel Pagnol’s trilogy about life & love along the Marseilles waterfront looks better than ever as the passing years have turned what once seemed like awkward blemishes (too stagebound, too much extraneous local 'color,' early Talkie technical limitations) into something historic & precious. As the café owner César, Raimu is a tower of eccentric strength, humor & homely wisdom while the famous characters (and characterizations!) who orbit around him make dramatic bouillabaisse out of a simple story of young love, the call of the sea and the reasonable folly of a May/December romance. Pierre Fresnay is a bit too old to play Marius, César’s 23 yr-old son, but he’s as true to the tricky Pagnol dichotomy of stage-heightened realism as the rest of the marvelous cast. Alexander Korda helmed with his usual functionality, but for a 1931 sound film made far from the large Paris-based production houses, it’s remarkably fluid, even lively at times. The KINO DVD set isn’t as sharp as it might be (a PAL transfer?), but it’s more than acceptable. The film itself is essential.

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