‘Marius’ and ‘Fanny’ – Daniel Auteuil

mariusFor his second outing as director,  actor Daniel Auteuil has returned to the classics with his interpretation of  two of Marcel Pagnol’s best-known plays. In 2011, he directed Pagnol’s La Fille du Puisatier (The Well Diggers Daughter). This time he takes on Marius and Fanny in two separate films. Both are set in the port city of Marseille.  Marius focuses on the relationship between the handsome son of a local bar owner and a young woman, Fanny, who is determined to capture his heart.  Although the film is called Marius, it would be better named Cesar, the name of the bar owner played by Auteuil himself. He steals every scene and is the real heart of the first film with Marius (Raphael Personnaz) relegated to a supporting role. This eclipse is more obvious as Personnaz struggles to give Marius a credible personality. In the fannyfannysecond film, Fanny, Auteuil makes way for a fine performance by Victoire Belezy as Fanny.  Fresh and charming, she effortlessly engages the audience in her struggle to decide her future. This is not the first adaptation of the plays to the big screen which raises the question as to why another interpretation ? And why two films when the storyline could easily have been condensed into one?  These films have everything you expect to find in a Pagnol-based work – richly-drawn characters, the claustrophobia of small-knit communities, the desire for self-fulfilment. Auteuil eloquently tackles issues of family honour, forgiveness,  compassion, and resentment – all bound together in one sumptuous visual package.  But beyond that the films lack energy and play more as a series of one act plays than real storytelling.  Arguably the cast of older actors are at the top of their game.  And there’s more than a nod to Pagnol’s theatrical roots as the actors skilfully bounce dialogue back and forth between themselves.  But there is little else to hold the audience’s interest.  Maruis arrives too late at the end of Fanny to add any suspense and the denouement is flat and unsatisfying. In cinemas in France: 10/07/2013

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