Supervisione alla regia: Marcel Pagnol · Sog.: dalla pièce omonima di Marcel Pagnol. Scen.: Marcel Pagnol. F.: Ted Pahle. M.: Roger Spiri-Mercanton. Scgf.: Alfred Junge, Zoltán Korda. Mus.: Francis Gromon. Int.: Raimu (César), Pierre Fresnay (Marius), Fernand Charpin (Panisse), Orane Demazis (Fanny), Alida Rouffe (Honorine), Alexandre Mihalesco (Piquoiseau), Paul Dullac (Escartefigue), Robert Vattier (Monsieur Brun), Édouard Delmont (Le Goëlec), Marcel Maupi (Innocent Mangiapan). Prod.: Les Films Marcel Pagnol ·DCP. D.: 127’. Bn.
Pagnol’s stroke of genius was to create characters that do not exist merely for the duration of a play or film, but beyond. ‘Open’ characters about which you will want to know the past and predict the future. (And this is already enough to justify the need for a ‘sequel’). These characters have been and are still so popular that we will just outline them broadly. First and foremost, naturally, is the one who presides over destinies at the Bar de la Marine, César, the patriarch, who is cantankerous and fierce, grumpy, untouchable and illustrious, one of the most glorious images of the father-figure, the keystone of Pagnol’s world. You could equally say that Marius is a son in the purest sense: a dreamer and unstable, who deep down has the ‘wanderlust’ that all twenty year olds have. Then there’s Fanny, with her basket of shells and her frayed straw hat, the expression of a strong, basic sensuality, a little unfashionable; alongside her are the mother and the aunt who harmoniously complement each other, the explosive Honorine and indulgent Claudine, not forgetting Zoë, who is often spoken of but never seen and who helps give prominence to the whole family; Panisse, another side to the proven humanism and loyalty, not without somewhat showy sentimentality, a good St. Bernard that protects the widow and orphan; and finally the bit players, Escartefigue, M. Brun, Le Goëlec, Piquoiseau, customers, cuckolds, confidants and exploiters, who together make up a human mini-play across the French city if not ‒ with Césariot, the last born, and slightly on the sidelines from his peers ‒ a true dynasty.
Dynasty is the right word. Is it a coincidence that Pagnol plays a little mockingly on various levels? Relying on tried and tested regionalist clichés (Marius’s lies, Fanny’s name linked to a wanton pledge in a game of pétanque), he gives his heroes illustrious names. The mythology of the South of France is enhanced by reference to Latin culture; following the ethnology of the places, the little stories of Vieux Port are incorporated into big History! Here it overcomes the much feared obstacle: the work, under the guise of comedy, takes on a haughty air and nobility, which give it some cleverly inserted ambiguities.
Claude Beylie, Marius, in I film di Marcel Pagnol, La Biennale di Venezia, Venice 1979
Restored in 2015 by the Compagnie Méditerranéenne de Films – MPC and Cinémathèque Française, with the support of the CNC, the Franco-American Cultural Fund (DGA-MPA-SACEM-WGAW), Arte France and the Archives Audiovisuelles de Monaco and the participation of Sogeda Monaco. Restoration supervised by Nicolas Pagnol and Hervé Pichard. The work was carried out by Digimage. Colour grading by Guillaume Schiffman, director of photography.