sailors, it is an age old question—which is stronger, the love of a woman or
the call of the sea? It is an issue that preoccupies the first two plays of
Marcel Pagnol’s Marseilles trilogy.
In the opening installment, Marius has apparently answered in favor of the
latter. Abandoned and secretly pregnant, the woman he once loved must now carry
on in Daniel Auteuil’s adaptation of Fanny,
which opens this Friday in New York.
they long carried torches for each other, Marius decided he had to ship out
when he finally had the opportunity and Fanny believed she had to let him go. Unfortunately,
her unwed pregnancy promises to ruin her standing around the Old Port of
Marseilles. Marius’s gregarious father César is still under the illusion his
son will soon return to marry Fanny, but the lack of letters from her former
lover speaks volumes.
to her surprise, Fanny’s old suitor, Panisse the sail merchant renews his
marriage offer, even after she fully explains her condition. Initially, César
bitterly resents their union, but when they fully take the tavern-keeper into
their confidence, he accepts the pragmatism of the arrangement. He will be the
godfather to his absent son’s baby, while Panisse’s wealth will secure his
future. Of course, the big uncertainty looming over their arrangement is
Marius, should he ever return.
both actor and director, Auteuil has an assured command of Pagnol’s work. While
there are a few strikingly cinematic sequences in Fanny, he intimately focuses on the personal drama, eschewing flash
and dazzle. He also delivers the most memorable performance, defining the
sacrifices of parenthood in exquisitely sensitive terms. Jean-Pierre Darroussin
is not far behind Auteuil, playing old Panisse with painful dignity and earnestness.
Victoire Bélézy looks lovely and deeply tragic as Fanny, whereas Raphaël
Personnaz largely underwhelms as the titular prodigal son.
has an evocative old world vibe, heightened by
the best score over-rated film composer Alexandre Desplat has penned in years.
Cinematographer Jean-François Robin gives it all a warm, nostalgic (in the best
sense) look. A quality period literary adaptation, Fanny satisfactorily stands alone for viewers who have not seen the
preceding Marius. Recommended for
patrons of French cinema, Fanny opens
this Friday (7/18) in New York at the Quad Cinema.
Labels: Daniel Auteuil, French Cinema, Marcel Pagnol