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  Gloire de Mon Pere, La Jolly Holiday
Year: 1990
Director: Yves Robert
Stars: Philippe Caubère, Nathalie Roussel, Didier Pain, Thérèse Liotard, Julien Ciamaca, Victorien Delamere, Joris Molinas, Benôit Martin, Paul Crauchet, Pierre Maguelon, Michel Modo, Jean Rougerie, Jean-Pierre Darras, Victor Garrivier
Genre: Comedy, Drama, BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Living happily amidst a district of Marseilles in the late 1890s, ebullient schoolteacher Joseph Pagnol (Philippe Caubère) and his wife Augustine (Nathalie Roussel) are blessed with a son, Marcel (Benôit Martin), who displays a prodigious aptitude for learning at an early age. Some years later, eleven year old Marcel (Julien Ciamaca) and his younger brother Paul (Victorien Delamere) join their parents, Aunt Rose (Thérèse Liotard) and jovial Uncle Jules (Didier Pain) for a long summer holiday in the glorious region of Provence. Marcel is soon overwhelmed by his surroundings. The sheer natural beauty of its mountains, wildlife and countryside leave a lasting impression that grows to influence his adult life.

La Gloire de Mon Père was the first in a two-part screen adaptation of the childhood memoirs of Marcel Pagnol, among the most important and versatile creative forces in French culture. As a playwright, novelist and film director in his own right, Pagnol’s output was characterised by his enduring affection for the Provencal landscape, something Claude Berri embraced with the pictorial excellence of his celebrated Pagnol adaptations, Jean de Florette (1985) and Manon des Sources (1986), and which proved the defining theme of this later film. Feeling a great affinity for the work of Pagnol, veteran actor-director Yves Robert laboured for thirty years to bring this dream project to the screen. But despite echoing themes from his breakthrough film, Alexandre le bienheureux (1968), La Gloire de Mon Père still stands as something of a change of pace for the man behind such hugely successful French comedies as Follow That Guy with the One Black Shoe (1972) and Pardon Mon Affaire (1976). Robert stifles his natural irreverent humour so as to remain faithful to the simple nostalgia and celebratory tone of Pagnol’s original text.

Exquisitely shot by no less than four cinematographers deftly marshalled by Robert, the glorious sweeping, sun-drenched vistas are like a vacation for the eyes. Which may explain why this was France’s biggest box office hit of 1990. The plot is similarly tantamount to following someone on their summer holiday, episodic and anecdotal though the profound friendship that arises between young Marcel and canny country boy Lilli (Joris Molinas) through their shared sense of wonder at the magical landscape, strikes a stirringly lyrical note. It is benign, charming but undeniably sentimental in a manner not far removed from a Disney movie, albeit sweet-natured rather than saccharine. Robert gallops through the slight story with his cast energetically inhabiting the engaging characters. The only tension in the tale arises from Joseph’s fiercely atheist and anti-clerical beliefs which clash very mildly with Jules’ staunch Catholicism. Even so, relations remain wholly genial.

Robert stumbles somewhat by relying on voice-over narration to convey Marcel’s growing spiritual awakening rather than making this part of the plot while the film’s other major theme, wherein the boy briefly worries his bookish, intellectual father won’t cut it as a rugged outdoorsman, proves similarly slight. Still, one can’t be too harsh on a film that otherwise conforms to every single definition of the word “lovely”, right down to the exceptionally evocative score composed by Vladimir Cosma with its chorus of humming cicadas.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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