Marius Screen 96 of 12 reviews

Marius

1931

Marius Poster
  • Korda shoots Marius, whose rolled-up sleeves and hardheaded attitude are comparable to the immigrant gangsters in U.S. cinema from the period, in wide shots that allow the character's actions to dictate the camera's movement... That's not to say the film's style is stagnant either; in a particularly memorable tracking shot, César enters a building and quickly exits the other side, as the camera rushes to make its mark.

  • The three films are subtly different: Korda’s is the moodiest and most focused, with moments of silent poetry (the pan across Marius’s bedroom boat pictures) and a deft eye for comedy (the greatest contract-bridge card-game scene in movie history).

  • 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. Much of the pleasure of Marius, for instance, springs from acquainting oneself with the lay of the land, as when starting a densely-imagined novel.

  • 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.

  • Korda and Pagnol stock the film with rich characters, humor, and observation, rendering a moving sense of family that poignantly holds together as it strains apart.

  • The first and most fiercely romantic of the original Marcel Pagnol Fanny trilogy... Marius, along with Chaplin's City Lights and Murnau's Tabu, remains one of the three great movies of 1931.

  • The first installment of Marcel Pagnol's Fanny trilogy, this film by Alexander Korda (1931) features the great French actor Raimu in an on-location re-creation of his stage triumph. If you've seen Joshua Logan's execrable remake of this superb series of stories about the life of ordinary people in Marseilles, you owe it to yourself to wash out the bad taste with this and the two ensuing installments. A marvelous, lusty film by the maker of The Private Life of Henry VIII.

  • [The Auteuil version is] the same movie [as the Korda]. And yet it isn't at all. Part of that's direction, and if I had the time (or were being paid), I could analyze Korda's alternation between masters and inserts (e.g. cutting to a close-up of advancing feet during the confrontation between Marius and Panisse) vs. Auteuil's reliance on banal medium close-ups. But a much bigger part is simply time, and how it keeps on slippin', slippin, slippin'.

  • Filming the play head-on, Alexander Korda attempts some face-saving directorial flourishes, like carving a composition in half with shadows of mariners and a blubbering Gallic version of "Blow the Man Down." But the auteur is Pagnol, of course, and this is a tragicomedy not of camera angles but of bodies and voices (even non-French ears should feel the rollercoaster accents), mock-brawling interrupted for a glass of champagne, aprons and rolled-up sleeves and caps worn like uniforms or armors.

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