If you know La Gloire de mon père and Le château de ma mère, the two movies from 1980 made by the director Yves Robert, the spirit of this made for TV movie will often strike you as different. Yes, there are the scenes with Lili de Belons, and all the wonder of wandering through la garrigue - which, having spent a week doing that myself when I was in la Treille to see the sites of which Pagnol wrote, I know and remember. (Though in this movie, the countryside around La Treille is far more brightly colored than in the two Robert movies, especially the lush greens, a color I did not see when I was there.) This Lili somehow seems less paysan, less different, but the scenes between him and Marcel are still magic. That is different, but still the same.
In other ways, however, the director of this TV film focuses on a decline and unhappiness not present in the first two works. Joseph and Augustine do not get along as well as in the first two works; his eye wanders, and he is not really ashamed of it. Nor does he get along as well with his brother-in-law, Uncle Jules.
At the high school, Marcel encounters students who are physically mistreated by their fathers, which is a whole new world.
Others have mentioned that when this director redoes scenes that had been included in Le Château de ma mère they were not as satisfying, and frankly, that is true. The portraits of the poet, Louis de Montemayor, of Uncle Jules, and some of the other characters, are so wonderful in Le Château de ma mère that, while they are not bad in this movie, they do pale by comparison. Jean Rochefort was great as the poet, and the actor who replaces him here does not come close to equaling that performance. Nor does the actor who takes the role of Uncle Jules here; he is not engaging, as the previous Jules was, he just isn't much of anything.
Other performances, though different, are equally as good. The actor who plays the young Marcel here is very fine, as is the Augustine.
But this is a darker story, and that too is different. Not bad, but different. Joseph is often angry about one thing or another, and the resentment of his brother in law runs deep here, not along religion/non-religion lines, as in the novel and the Robert movies, but along financial lines: Joseph resents Jules' prosperity. And this Jules is a cheat, which he was not in the previous movies.
This movie may come as unsettling for those who know the first two movies, but it is none the less interesting for that.
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