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Georg Wilhelm Pabst
Marius has left, signed up for a five year hitch on a ship bound for the Indian Ocean. In his few letters to his father César, he hardly mentions Fanny. When she finds she is pregnant, she considers her options: suicide, to raise the child on her own, to wait for Marius, or to marry Honoré Panisse, the older merchant who seeks her hand. These choices are emotional: to raise a bastard, to trust in Marius' eventual return, to believe he'll want to marry her, to save her mother from shame, to fool Panisse, to give her child a name. In scenes dramatizing Fanny's honesty, she talks to her mother, then Panisse, César, and later Marius, and she makes her choices. Written by
The film underwent a restoration in 2015, through the Compagnie Méditerranéenne de Film and the Cinémathèque Française, with the support of the CNC, the Franco-American Cultural Fund, TV channel Arte and The Audiovisual Archives of the Principality of Monaco. See more »
"Fanny", the second chapter of Marcel Pagnol's 'Marseilles' trilogy, takes us right to the spot the first movie ended. There's no summary, no flashbacks, no flash forward either, it's just as if the director, Marc Allegret trusted the good memory of his audience, and I guess in these times, cinema was still such a new thing that an experience like the first "Marius" would have left unforgettable memories.
Marius (Pierre Fresnay), the idealistic and romantic son of colorful barkeeper César (the one and only Raimu), has just sailed to the seven seas, following both his lifelong dream and the guidance of his beloved Fanny (Orane Demazis). We left César delighted after hearing that his son and Fanny would marry, and give him grandchildren in the years to come. But "Fanny" starts with Marius' departure. And you can see the light of joy vanish from César's face, he welcomes the news like a knife in his heart and sinks into melancholy like an ice cube in a Pastis drink. The first act shows both César and Fanny trying to deal with Marius' absence, their deep and inconsolable sorrow makes Marius the most present character despite his absence.
But the worst is yet to come, Fanny is pregnant and Marius is the father. Her mother Honorine throws a tantrum and was about to disown her when she passed out, that's the kind of blow to their honor they don't need in the family. The situation seems unsolvable but there's a gateway: brave old Panisse (Henri Charpin) who's still maintaining his offer to marry Fanny. What I liked about the film is that you kind of secrecy to run in the narrative, but it doesn't, for one simple reason, this is a film with fully developed characters. Their personality are not reliant on the plot, they make the plot. Fanny is not a bad woman, when Panisse proposes her, she can't hide her pregnancy, because lying would be more dishonorable. And I loved Panisse's response, he's aware that their age gap will inspire a lot of gossipy talks, but he's always wanted to be a father, so his marriage with Fanny is benefiting for both, it's a win-win situation.
Any ounce of guilt or discomfort is dissipated; by marrying Fanny, Panisse keeps her honor and his self-esteem.. It is a marriage of convenience but Panisse makes good points, what's more, he's rich, so Fanny doesn't have much a choice, between a bastard and a rich heir. But here 's how the film teases your expectations again, just when you're wondering how they'll keep the secret, César does his best keeping Fanny's spirit up confident that Marius will come back, and does his best keeping Panisse away from her, dismissing his idea of marrying her. In a lesser movie, Fanny would have held the truth and César would have called her as a whore or a venal woman, but Fanny can't stand the insult and asks Panisse to reveal their secret. It takes a few minutes but César realizes they do have a point and waiting for Marius would bring dishonor for poor Fanny. But he also looks at the bright side of things, he'll still have a grandson and a heir, the name doesn't matter, he'd be twice wealthier.
There's a poignant scene where the older man of Panisse family thanks Fanny for the baby and at this point, there's no way you'd believe they did something wrong. It is a win-win indeed and a fragile equilibrium is reached until Marius comes back. And again, Fanny tells him the truth Panisse can let Fanny go back to Marius but he won't abandon his child and even César, César who had always put his son above any other man, who had a nasty quarrel with Panisse, defended him. What a climax! You have plenty of characters with desires and dreams colliding together, Marius' love for Fanny, Fanny's honor, Panisse needing a child, César for a grandson to play with, each one is right, but they can't all be satisfied, even Fanny can't abandon Panisse despite the fact that she loves Marius. It's pure Cornelian dilemmas and it works on a very emotional and realistic level, not resorting to the clichés or "idiot script" formula where it's more convenient to keep a mystery, the film doesn't care for mysteries, it cares about people who're so passionate, so involved that they end up knowing what the others were about to hide. Like life I guess, you can't have secrets for too long.
The film was directed by another director but the continuity with the first film is so well-done you'd think it was made by the same person. Well, the film is based on Marcel Pagnol's play and he's the real "director" and the actors are so into their characters that they make any directorial stunt unnecessary, it's a character-study, a story of people driven to the most extreme compromises by their morals, feelings and duties, to keep the appearances. The film ends with its bleak note, leaving us eager to look forward to a suitable conclusion, this time named "César" and directed by Marcel Pagnol himself.
Needless to say, I'm looking forward to discovering it
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