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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

FANNY (1932)

In Part Two of Marcel Pagnol’s classic Marseilles trilogy, Fanny, who ended Part One by sending Marius off to sea, discovers she’s carrying his child. Perhaps Panisse, the middle-aged sailmaker who has long sought her hand, will still take her? He’s rich, widowed, lovestruck & childless. A ready-made heir might be a plus? Non? Naturally, serious & comic complications ensue, with many embellishments, especially from Cesar, Papa to Marius and now Grandpapa-in-waiting. A year after Alex Korda helmed MARIUS/’31, Marc Allégret has the technical facility to shoot more scenes on the streets of Marseilles, but paradoxically this only emphasizes the stagebound nature of Pagnol’s material. Some of the famous comic set pieces hang narrative fire. No matter. A third of the way in, the plot strands take hold and the familiar story comes alive once more. The warmth & humanity in the characterizations are, if anything, stronger than before, exceptionally so in the miraculous balance of realism & stylization of Raimu’s Cesar. The third act, when Marius returns and the blinders come crashing down, can make you catch your breath at Pagnol’s skill in parsing sentiment from sentimentality. Plus, you get some plus perfect patois putdowns: "I wouldn’t give your wife’s bouillabaisse to my dog!"

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