Fanny Screen 89 of 9 reviews

Fanny

1932

Fanny Poster
  • The “girl woos boy, girl loses boy” plot at the center of Marius (1931), Fanny (1932), and César (1936), playwright-turned-filmmaker Marcel Pagnol’s seriocomic Marseille Trilogy, is the steam engine that drives a marvelous old-school carousel. What makes this tragicomic merry-go-round so intoxicating is not its speed or pace (slow and steady), but the beauty of its weather-streaked, hand-carved figures as they chug up and down and come full circle.

  • Much of the pleasure of the Trilogy comes through Pagnol’s attention to the vernacular of his native land—not just the salty, epigrammatic humor, but the semaphore-like language of gesture that accompanies and massages the cadence of speech, snapping at crescendos with a conductor’s flourish. Pagnol cultivated his own stock company, many of them, like Raimu or Charpin, plucked from the music halls of the south, and each performer gives their character a distinct personal lexicon.

  • Pagnol is the auteur throughout, providing the series a sense of texture that’s so hyperreal it’s surreal. This Marseille is vast in its smallness, in the sense one has of being able to navigate the city merely by watching these films.

  • Certainly the Marseille trilogy doesn't have much in the way of flashy film technique, but that doesn't mean these three films are uncinematic. Numerous scenes are filmed outdoors, to take advantage of the uniquely beautiful light in southern France. (Pagnol eventually opened his own small studio in Marseille.) To fill bit parts, Pagnol often utilized locals pulled right off the street. That sense of place is essential.

  • Part of why Marius, Fanny, and César are so affecting is because they are so relatable. With no real villain to speak of, and almost seven total hours with which to flesh-out the various characters, Pagnol’s narrative foundation encourages the tossing aside of moral judgment with a Renoir-esque acceptance that “everyone has their reasons.” While occasionally melodramatic and at times nearly violent, the acrimony is almost always understandable.

  • A marvelously alive film, well suited to the vitality of Pagnol's story, and a perfect sequel to Korda's first installment. Pagnol was to assume directorial control with the next part.

  • The claustrophobia of the framing works to thematize Pagnol's overarching examination of how social mores in tight living quarters are passed from one generation to the next. The structure of the films repeatedly make this point, so that Fanny plays much like a remake of Marius, even though it picks narratively up where the first film leaves off.

  • The three films are subtly different... Allégret’s is airier, more French, more relaxed, and more attuned to landscape.

  • The Nation: James Agee
    April 24, 1948 | Agee on Film (p. 298)

    Some nice moments and some very nice acting, but much too wordy, slow, and smug.

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