Marseillaise, La (1938)

Marseillaise, La (1938)

“This song will unite all Frenchmen.”

In late 18th century France, a group of citizens from Marseille march to the Tuileries Palace to revolt against King Louis XVI (Pierre Renoir) and Marie Antoinette (Lise Delamare).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • French Films
  • French Revolution
  • Historical Drama
  • Jean Renoir Films
  • Revolutionaries
  • Royalty and Nobility

Made just after La Grande Illusion (1937) and just before La Bete Humaine (1938), this historical drama was one of director Jean Renoir’s personal favorites. His goal was to present the story of the French Revolution from the perspective of ordinary people on the ground:

… while also (secondarily) humanizing the King and Queen.

According to TCM, this film is:

… at once a pageant (the lavish costumes for the aristocrats and monarchs was provided by Renoir’s friend, Coco Chanel), a socio-political debate, a call to arms, and a celebration of social justice that echoed the spirit of the short-lived Popular Front government. Renoir called it “a film by the people for the people,” and initially it was to be financed by subscriptions from ordinary citizens (a more traditional financing model was found when the subscriptions came up short).

Film fanatics should be forewarned that this movie presumes a baseline understanding of French history, given that most “significant” events take place off camera. Instead, Renoir focuses his camera on banter, survival, love interests:

… on-the-ground fighting:

… and a growing sense of collective will to bring about political change.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Fine cinematography and historical recreations

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a look. Listed as a film with Historical Importance.


One thought on “Marseillaise, La (1938)

  1. First viewing. Agreed; not must-see.

    While I appreciate the aim of the film (the uniqueness of its angle), I’ve seen a number of films covering the same material and am a little hesitant to cite this one as particularly noteworthy.

    It’s not a bad film but neither is it one that ffs should make a point of finding.

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