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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

CESAR (1936)

Four years after MARIUS/’31 & FANNY/’32 (see below), writer Marcel Pagnol finally took up the megaphone to make the last (and least) of his classic trilogy on life, love, philosophy and the juvenile games men play on the Marseilles waterfront. It’s twenty years since Marius ran off to sea, leaving a pregnant Fanny to marry rich old Panisse, and Pagnol can still manage the various plot strands in talky, but entertaining fashion. Yet, the film only comes to life in the second half which is about how long it takes Pagnol to figure out just what a director of film is supposed to do. Watch for a scene where Fanny waits on a boat for her son Cesariot; suddenly Pagnol begins to think like a director. (On the other hand, the almost primitive technique adds a sort of artisanal charm.) The scenes between Pierre Fresnay & André Fouché, father & son who have never met, are particularly fine; Raimu is the Earth itself as César; and you’ll want to know how it all turns out. Just be aware that everything here, even the washed out look of the DVD transfer, is a step or two down from the first two outings.

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