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Category: Response Reviews

My comments on Peary’s reviews in Guide for the Film Fanatic (Simon & Schuster, 1986).

Educating Rita (1983)

Educating Rita (1983)

“I came to tell you you’re a good teacher.”

Synopsis:
An alcoholic literature professor (Michael Caine) reluctantly agrees to mentor a hairdresser named Rita (Julie Walters) who is interested in learning more about herself through formal education. Meanwhile, Rita’s husband (Malcolm Douglas) is distressed to find that Rita doesn’t want a baby right away, and Caine is unaware that his kind girlfriend (Jeananne Crowley) is actually having an affair with his colleague (Michael Williams).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Alcoholism and Drug Addiction
  • Character Arc
  • Class Relations
  • College
  • Feminism and Women’s Issues
  • Mentors
  • Michael Caine Films
  • Play Adaptation
  • Professors

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that “Julie Walters gives a witty, endearing performance as Rita (the role she had on the London stage), a working class Liverpool hairdresser who decides to study literature at the Open University,” and “Michael Caine is also exceptional as the alcoholic, non-caring professor, a failed poet, who reluctantly becomes her tutor.”

However, I’m not sure I agree with the remainder of Peary’s assessment. He notes that Rita’s “enthusiasm excites [Caine] and he becomes a good professor” (this is only marginally indicated; he still has enormous drinking problems), and that “Caine, who has fallen in love with [Rita], misses the honesty she conveyed before she became (with his help) too sophisticated.” (Again, I’m not sure either of these statements is quite true.) Peary adds, “While the picture was made a decade too late to be taken seriously as an important woman’s-movement film, it does make an interesting point that a man resents a woman who is as educated as or more educated than himself — even if he is the one who encouraged her education” (a “favorite theme of Woody Allen”); however, I don’t actually see evidence of Caine’s Professor Frank Bryant resenting Rita — rather, she puzzles and intrigues him.

In Alterate Oscars, Peary names Caine Best Actor of the Year, asserting that while “Educating Rita was a showcase for Julie Walters, and she gives a dynamic performance, full of grit and wit,” “Caine matches her every step of the way.”

He notes, “As Rita changes in dramatic ways, we notice subtle changes in Frank. As his drinking drops off, he again looks out his window with clear eyes at the pretty world outside, starts to care again about teaching, is excited again about literature, smiles, has energy, looks trimmer… and likes himself again.” But “when Rita leaves his sphere of influence, getting stimulation and experiences elsewhere, he is crushed, reacting with spite and martyrdom,” and “orders her to go away.” (No — actually, he strongly recommends that she attend summer school, reminding her that she has plenty to learn from other tutors besides him.) At that point, “obsolete again, he returns to booze”:

… and “his attitude becomes obnoxious, but Caine makes it evident that Frank is feeling emotions that he hasn’t experienced in years. So while he tries to destroy himself — if the drinking doesn’t wreck him physically, it will at very least cause him to lose his position — he also looks deeply inside himself and unexpectedly finds good qualities, the result of his relationship with Rita.” Peary concludes that “as Frank Bryant, tutor of someone who had a background much like Caine’s own, he got the opportunity to be intelligent, tender, funny, bitter, self-pitying, and insecure.”

I’m a fan of Caine’s work here, but can’t relate to much of Peary’s assessment, given that Frank’s trajectory is ultimately peripheral (rightfully so) to that of Rita. Caine’s performance hints at the depths indicated in Peary’s analysis — but because they’re not the primary focus, we don’t really know for sure what’s going on. We see the folks around Frank (students, colleagues, friends) showing remarkable sympathy for his disease, giving him yet another chance, time and again — but we’re not actually sure he deserves these chances. Instead, it’s Rita’s bold liberation from the shackles of her class expectations that keeps us engaged; it’s easy to sympathize with the predicament she finds herself in, given that she genuinely cares for her husband and family but simply can’t relate to their desires or lifestyle anymore.

Peary ends his Alternate Oscars review of Caine’s performance by writing:

“After Rita’s transformation from honest woman to pretentious [sic] sophisticate, Frank alludes to Mary Shelley’s creation of a monster. Significantly, while he begrudges himself for having altered Rita, he is the one who is acting like a monster. You really do feel his ‘smirking terror’ as he gazes at this woman who has outgrown him and wants her freedom. What’s really scary, for many of us men, anyway, is that we can identify with Caine’s abandoned mentor at this moment.”

Peary’s sentiments are authentic and revealing of his own insecurities — and while I can’t relate to them, it’s clear that this film offers different take-aways for a variety of viewers. As Peary writes in GFTFF, “This was an unexpected hit that most everyone liked, despite the conventional Pygmalion-influenced story,” and it remains worth a one-time look.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Julie Walters as Rita

  • Michael Caine as Dr. Frank Bryant

Must See?
Yes, for the strong central performances.

Categories

  • Noteworthy Performance(s)
  • Oscar Winner or Nominee

Links:

All that Jazz (1979)

All that Jazz (1979)

“I try to give you everything I can give.”

Synopsis:
Ailing Broadway choreographer and director Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider) receives visits from a beautiful angel of death (Jessica Lange) while overseeing the production of a musical starring his ex-wife (Leland Palmer); editing a film about a caustic comic (Cliff Gorman); visiting his adoring 12-year-old daughter (Erzsabet Foldi); sleeping with an aspiring starlet (Deborah Geffner); and disappointing his loyal mistress (Ann Reinking) by refusing to settle down with her.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Bob Fosse Films
  • Dancers
  • Death and Dying
  • Jessica Lange Films
  • Roy Scheider Films
  • Womanizers

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that “Bob Fosse’s stylized, semi-autobiographical musical about a hopelessly overworked Broadway and movie director” — “who suffers a heart attack that should, but doesn’t really, give him a new perspective on life and death” — “starts out like a house afire, with beautifully choreographed, erotic — almost lewd — dances”:

… but “once Scheider has his attack that sends him to the hospital”:

… “the picture deteriorates into a never-ending wave of self-indulgence” and “you really get to hate Scheider’s character.” He further adds that the “‘Bye Bye, Life’ finale, during which Fosse, Scheider, and company do to the Everly Brothers what TV commercial jingles do to many of our standards, is perhaps the most annoying production number in cinema history” (I disagree):

Peary asserts that this “picture will be enjoyed most by those involved in theater or film,” which is surely true — but I think he massively undersells this uniquely crafted, one-of-a-kind musical drama. Scheider’s self-depracating, pathologically perfectionistic character is put on full display, and it’s refreshing to see his personal demons inextricably interwoven with his creative genius.

We get an unfiltered (albeit highly stylized) glimpse at the costs of being driven by your art, the sacrifices an artist makes because they don’t see any other way ahead, and the collateral damage that inevitably occurs all around them. Gideon is so creatively obsessed that even his custody time spent with his daughter centers on dancing (which, for the record, she seems to love):

I’m increasingly convinced that brilliance of any kind — if pursued fully and relentlessly — comes at a cost. While society benefits from the fruits of genius, the individual and those in their close circle suffer. Obviously, this isn’t always the case: people make trade-offs all the time to prioritize (for instance) their spouse or kids or privacy; but how many examples do we have of generative brilliance coupled with a sane and balanced personal life? Not nearly enough. The reality is that those who seek fame and creative satisfaction often sacrifice their health by — for instance — over-relying on drugs and adrenaline to get by (as we see oh-so-clearly in this film) while wreaking emotional havoc on the people who love them and can’t quit them. Joe Gideon doesn’t get away with anything by the end — he’s all-too-mortal — but at least we know he’s had a hell of a visionary time until then.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Roy Scheider as Joe Gideon
  • Fine supporting performances

  • The compelling opening “cattle call” sequence
  • Giuseppe Rotunno’s cinematography

Must See?
Yes, as a powerful and unusual classic.

Categories

  • Good Show

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Links:

Big Chill, The (1983)

Big Chill, The (1983)

“The thing is, nobody said it was gonna be fun. At least, nobody said it to me.”

Synopsis:
When their friend Alex commits suicide, a group of baby boomers — including a tabloid writer (Jeff Goldblum), an actor (Tom Berenger), a drug-taking Vietnam vet (William Hurt), a lawyer (Mary Kay Place), and the wife (JoBeth Williams) of a successful businessman (Don Galloway) — gather at the home of happily married Sarah (Glenn Close) and Harold (Kevin Kline), where Alex’s young girlfriend (Meg Tilly) is also staying.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Counterculture
  • Ensemble Cast
  • Get Togethers and Reunions
  • Jeff Goldblum Films
  • Suicide
  • William Hurt Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary is highly cynical in his review of this film by “Lawrence Kasdan and his co-writer Barbara Benedek” about “seven college radicals from the sixties-early seventies [who] are reunited when the ‘leader’ of their former group commits suicide.” He notes that “if this is what became of his previously involved, socially conscious friends, then it’s no wonder the guy committed suicide.” OUCH! Peary argues that while “the film is slick and funny,” it’s “infuriating that Kasdan thinks most sixties radicals have gone the way of Jerry Rubin:”

… and adds that he “certainly know[s] more people from the sixties protest movement who are more like the characters in John Sayles’s superior 1980 film Return of the Seacaucus Seven” — who, “if they’re not out in the streets,” at least “haven’t sold out their values and are still doing their part for social change.” I don’t believe Kasdan or Benedek think this is what has happened to all “sixties radicals” — or even that this particular group of folks was once “radical” so much as idealistic, young, and liberal. The filmmakers are simply telling a slice of reality as they experienced it themselves.

Peary asserts that the “best, most nostalgic scenes have characters gathering in the kitchen for food and chit-chat”:


… and argues that while the “dialogue is sharp,” it’s “too precise (it comes across as if it were written rather than delivered spontaneously).” He notes that the “most appealing character is the outsider, the dead man’s young, shallow girlfriend Meg Tilly,” who “hasn’t been formed yet, so she surely hasn’t been corrupted.”

However, several of the other characters are appealing as well, most notably Close as the grieving ex-lover of the deceased friend:

… and Berenger’s refreshingly humble T.V. actor, who hates seeing himself on-screen:

While this immensely popular movie is no longer must-see for all film fanatics, I think it remains worth a look.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Strong performances by the ensemble cast

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended as an Oscar-nominated one-time favorite.

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Links:

Death Wish (1974)

Death Wish (1974)

“What about the old American custom of self-defense? If the police don’t protect us, we ought to do it ourselves.”

Synopsis:
An architect (Charles Bronson) whose wife (Hope Lange) is murdered and daughter (Kathleen Tolan) traumatized by a trio of sociopathic thugs (including Jeff Goldblum) becomes a vigilante in New York City, murdering criminals after dark on the streets.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Charles Bronson Films
  • Hope Lange Films
  • Jeff Goldblum Films
  • New York City
  • Vigilantes
  • Widows and Widowers

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary writes, this “blockbuster film that exploited public paranoia over urban crime” “fed on the reactionary’s fantasy of wiping out young thugs who are after their money and women”; “visualized the white, middle-class pacificist-liberal’s fantasy of being a gun-toting hero; and pandered to the movie audience’s desire for strong violence.”

Peary adds that it’s “no wonder” Bronson’s “liberal New York architect Paul Kersey” became “a hero to millions of moviegoers,” given “how director Michael Winner stacks the deck to make vigilante justice the only recourse against widespread crime.” He further notes that the film “makes the absurd assumption that every person who demands money from Kersey is planning on killing him and, therefore, must be killed instead of just being scared away.” (I actually don’t think this assumption is being made — rather, Bronson is sick and tired of criminals getting their way, and doesn’t really care what their motive is.) Peary adds that the “film’s most interesting aspect is that Kersey gets physically ill from his initial killings”:

He notes, “I wish this had been emphasized a bit more and that someone other than Winner had directed (Robert Bresson would be the dream choice).” While Peary asserts that Bronson “was the right person to play Kersey, who would reprise his character in Winner’s two atrocious sequels,” I find his one-note performance distinctly lacking:

Why doesn’t this guy react with even a little bit more emotion after the death of his beloved wife? (Poor Hope Lange’s role is throwaway at best.)

We’re led to believe that he’s simply channeling his grief into vengeance, but where’s the grief itself? See the “Every Wrong with Death Wish in 13 Minutes” video clip for affirmation about all the other inconsistencies and inanities littering this film. There are a couple of “notable” cameos to be on the lookout for: Jeff Goldblum has an embarrassingly awful role as one of the three thugs asssaulting Bronson’s family:

… and Ghristopher Guest shows up as the policeman who finds Bronson’s gun:

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Fine cinematography and location shooting in New York
  • Herbie Hancock’s unique score

Must See?
No, but it’s worth a one-time look for its historical relevance.

Links:

Victim (1961)

Victim (1961)

“It used to be witches; at least they don’t burn you.”

Synopsis:
When a successful London barrister (Dirk Bogarde) married to a beautiful and understanding wife (Sylvia Syms) receives a call from a young acquaintance (Peter McEnery), he soon becomes caught up in attempting to identify the blackmailers who are wreaking havoc in the underground gay community.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Amateur Sleuths
  • Blackmail
  • Dirk Bogarde Films
  • Homosexuality
  • Morality Police

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “well-made drama” about a “distinguished, married English barrister with a homosexual past” was “the first film to be about homosexuality, and, fortunately, it’s strongly directed by Basil Dearden and maturely and sympathetically written by [married screenwriters] Janet Green and John McCormick.” He points out that a “key scene” in which “Bogarde and other middle-aged homosexuals talk about the antiquated laws dealing with homosexuality” is a “discussion that no other picture would be brave enough to include for many years to come.”

He spends much of the rest of his review citing a critic from Films in Review when the film was released, who complained that “the biological, social and psychological evils resulting from homosexuality are never mentioned” and “the false contention that homosexuality is congenital is stressed throughout” (!!); Peary notes that this “gives us some idea how far ahead of its time this picture was,” and tells about watching the cut version for years on TV, “in which, remarkably, homosexual references are excised” — meaning that “for years [he] had no idea what this picture was about.”

Peary doesn’t specifically highlight Bogarde’s performance in his review, but he should; Bogarde (semi-closeted in real life) is note perfect in a role that he was apparently eager to play. What’s most refreshing about the storyline is that Bogarde’s character doesn’t shy away from facing the truth of his sexuality: we learn that he was upfront with his wife before they got married, and after he finds out about McEnery’s tragic end, he vows to investigate and seek justice, despite the risk this poses to both his career and his marriage. Knowing that homosexuality was illegal in Britain until 1967 under the Sexual Offenses Act, one is grateful to this film for showing just a glimpse of what life was like for many during that time.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Dirk Bogarde as Melville Farr
  • Sylvia Syms as Laura Farr
  • Atmospheric cinematography

  • Fine use of location shooting
  • A powerful, no-holds-barred depiction of legalized homophobia

Must See?
Yes, for Bogarde’s performance and as an overall “good show” with historical importance.

Categories

  • Good Show
  • Historically Relevant
  • Noteworthy Performance(s)

Links:

Planet of the Apes (1968)

Planet of the Apes (1968)

“Man has no understanding. He can be taught a few simple tricks — nothing more.”

Synopsis:
When three astronauts (Charlton Heston, Robert Gunner, and Jeff Burton) crash-land on an alien planet, Captain Taylor (Heston) is imprisoned and studied by two ape-scientists (Kim Hunter and Roddy McDowell) whose work on the origins of humans is deeply threatening to the Minister of Science (Maurice Evans).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Astronauts
  • Charlton Heston Films
  • Kim Hunter Films
  • Post-Apocalypse
  • Primates
  • Roddy McDowell Films
  • Science Fiction
  • Scientists

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that while “Pierre Boulle’s novel Monkey Planet is given a big-budget, wide-screen Hollywood treatment,” “its sole virtues are the result of money spent.” He argues that the “script by Rod Serling and Michael Wilson” is “surprisingly juvenile,” and that “the writers thought they could get away with the cliches by the dozens and the most simplistic moralistic statements just because these would seem different coming from people in monkey costumes.”

With that said, he concedes that director Franklin J. Schaffner “does exhibit visual flare when filming action scenes and landscape shots”:

… and that “bare-chested Heston’s a solid, muscular hero” — a “good choice to play a symbol of human superiority who is humbled when he is to be experimented on by the apes, just as humans experiment on apes back home.”

I’m largely in agreement with Peary’s assessment, finding this film, frankly, overrated. While I disagree that the film’s ending — “like something stolen from Serling’s The Twilight Zone” — is “predictable” (it’s not), I have a hard time wrapping my head around the inanity of the ape costumes, the wooden acting, and the improbable script (see the humorous video “Everything Wrong With Planet of the Apes” for an overview of its many “sins”). This was clearly meant to be a satire on numerous levels, and at the time of its release I’m sure it was considered audacious and groundbreaking — but it simply hasn’t aged well.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Groundbreaking make-up design
  • Several powerful images
  • Fine widescreen cinematography

Must See?
Yes, once, simply for its historical relevance.

Categories

  • Historically Relevant

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Links:

Greed (1924)

Greed (1924)

“You won’t touch my money, I tell you!”

Synopsis:
When a miner-turned-dentist (Gibson Gowland) is introduced to the cousin and girlfriend (ZaSu Pitts) of his friend Marcus (Jean Hersholt), he falls instantly in love and is granted permission by Marcus to woo her. Shortly before their marriage, Trina (Pitts) wins $5,000 in a lottery ticket purchased from a neighbor (Dale Fuller), and becomes increasingly unhinged about spending money; meanwhile, Marcus regrets his decision to “give away” Trina and harbors deep resentment towards McTeague.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Dentists
  • Erich von Stroheim Films
  • Gold Seekers
  • Greed
  • Marital Problems
  • Mental Breakdown
  • Rivalry
  • Silent Films
  • Zasu Pitts Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary begins his review of “Erich von Stroheim’s original, extremely faithful version of McTeague, Frank Norris’s well-known naturalist novel” by noting that it “was nearly 10 hours long” and then “drastically cut,” with “all excised footage… destroyed.” (Since Peary’s GFTFF was published, a fascinating four-hour restoration was completed by Turner Entertainment, which is the version I watched; you can read a lot more about it here.) Peary writes that in the butchered version, the “three most prominent characters” remain, and “despite being trimmed to about a fourth of it original length” it “is still a masterpiece, one of the greatest of silent films and a picture that still has impact today.” He notes that “surely no character has better displayed avarice than Pitts, whose brow rises automatically and eyes look cunning any time she can even smell money”:

(I’m actually not sure “avarice” is the best word to describe her pitiful character, who seems to suffer from an extreme form of OCD.) Peary adds that “the film also benefits from Von Stroheim’s typical array of unusual supporting characters”:

… “the intensity of his directing and the acting”:

… “his attention to set design”:

… “and his decision to film on location in San Francisco and even Death Valley for the classic finale.”


Peary writes that “the worst result of the extreme studio-imposed editing is that the changes in the characters’ personalities once money enters their lives are too rushed… For the naturalism of Norris to be conveyed propertly, the deterioration of their marriage and their descent from nice people to ‘animals’ must have a more natural progression.” Thankfully, this concern is addressed and fixed in the restored version, which is recommended. Indeed, the entire storyline remains remarkably compelling and relevant; I’m hard-pressed to think of a better film about the consequences of money-driven psychosis, greed, and envy.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • William Daniels’ cinematography

Must See?
Yes, as a classic of the silent era.

Categories

  • Genuine Classic
  • Historically Relevant
  • Important Director

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Links:

October / Ten Days That Shook the World (1927)

October / Ten Days That Shook the World (1927)

“Bread — peace — land — brotherhood!”

Synopsis:
After the February Revolution and the establishment of a Provisional Government helmed by Alexander Kerensky (Nikolay Popov), Lenin (Vasili Nikandrov) leads a group of Bolshevik revolutionaries in storming the Winter Palace during October of 1917.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Revolutionaries
  • Russian Films
  • Sergei Eisenstein Films
  • Silent Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
In his review of Sergei Eisenstein’s “visually dynamic version of Russia’s October Revolution of 1917” — the 67 minute cut, about half-an-hour shorter than the restored version now in circulation — Peary refers to the film as “a great propaganda piece,” with interim ruler “Kerensky portrayed as a power-hungry neurotic who is no different from Napoleon or Czar Nicholas”:


… and “the bourgeoisie who thrive under Kerensky [shown as] decadent types… who treat the Bolsheviks contemptuously and… brutally”:

Peary points out that the “film has several amazing sequences,” including “a dead horse (symbol of the Russian laborer)… lifted high into the air by the rising drawbridge it’s roped to”:

… and “the lengthy, exciting storming of the Winter Palace by the Bolsheviks”:

However, he notes that the film is “most known for Eisenstein’s startling use of montage to create rhythm, build tension, and express ideas.”

Indeed, those interested in Soviet-era cinematic montage won’t want to miss this classic outing by a master of the craft — though it’s not must-see viewing for all film fanatics.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Powerful imagery, cinematography, and montage

Must See?
No, though it’s certainly worth a look for its historical relevance.

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Links:

Cesar (1936)

Cesar (1936)

“Sure, they had devoted fathers — but I don’t think any could compare to mine.”

Synopsis:
When his adoptive father (Fernand Charpin) dies, grown Cesar (Andre Fouche) learns from his mother (Orane Demazis) that his biological father (Pierre Fresnay) — son of his godfather (Raimu) — was a sailor who may still be alive, and sets out to meet him.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Death and Dying
  • Father and Child
  • French Films
  • Grown Children
  • Waterfront

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that “Marcel Pagnol directed as well as wrote the final chapter of his Marseilles Trilogy,” which takes “place about 17 years after Fanny (1932)” and presents “a lovely, deeply moving film with the usual rich characterizations and passionate performances.”

He notes that “highlights include Cesar’s discourse on Death and God, all scenes in which one character reveals love for another (which happens throughout the trilogy), and when Panisse’s friends gather around his deathbed.”

He concludes his review by writing that this “fine example of Pagnol’s ‘human’ cinema” can “be enjoyed without having seen Marius or Fanny” — though I actually find it to be the least satisfying of the three, primarily given the dull character played by Fouche:

… and the silly miscommunication that ensues when he sets off to find Fresnay. Even the humor among the elderly townsfolk feels less fresh this time around, especially with Charpin gone:

However, fans of the series will of course find this film indispensable, simply in order to learn what happens to the characters.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Atmospheric sets and cinematography

Must See?
No, though fans of the trilogy will naturally be eager to check it out.

Links:

Fanny (1932)

Fanny (1932)

“You can’t buy a girl — especially not one like Fanny.”

Synopsis:
After her boyfriend Marius (Pierre Fresnay) goes away to sea, Fanny (Orane Demazis) discovers she’s pregnant. With support from her mother (Alida Rouffe) and Marius’s father, Cesar (Raimu), Fanny agrees to marry her older suitor, Honore (Fernand Charpin), and allow him to be the father of her child — but what will happen when Marius learns about the baby?

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Father and Child
  • French Films
  • Play Adaptations
  • Pregnancy
  • Waterfront
  • Widows and Widowers

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “second part of Marcel Pagnol’s Marseilles Trilogy” — “falling between Marius (1931) and Cesar (1936)” — “picks up exactly where Marius left off”; indeed, it’s a true sequel without any gap. He notes that once “again the film succeeds because of the believable, lovable characters rather than the direction [by Marc Allegret], which is theatrical,” and points out that “Raimu is splendid, and Charpin, Demazis, and Fresnay make strong impessions.”

Peary also reminds us that “Jacques Demy borrowed the basic plot (eliminating the Cesar character and making the boy a wartime soldier rather than a sailor) for his 1964 musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” and that “the 1961 film Fanny” — starring Leslie Caron and Maurice Chevalier — “was derived from the entire trilogy.”

I’m a fan of these gently humorous stories (though I’ll admit to watching them at a slightly sped up pace). This second entry is particularly poignant, given the candid discussions taking place between all parties, and how excited Charpin is to finally be a father after so many years. I appreciate that seafaring Fresnay is gone for most of the movie, allowing this portion of the narrative to focus on Demazis’s decisions on behalf of her child. While there is — of course — heartbreak and compromise to be had, we also see plenty of collaboration and joy, making this film more uplifting than one would expect.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Fernand Charpin as Honore Panisse
  • Raimu as Cesar Olivier
  • Orane Demazis as Fanny
  • Atmospheric sets and cinematography

Must See?
Yes, as a compelling second entry in Pagnol’s trilogy.

Categories

  • Foreign Gem

Links: