One of the most celebrated trilogies in film history sprang from the heart of Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974), the playwright, novelist and filmmaker who became a national treasure in his native France. Unfolding over years about the same unforgettable characters living around the waterfront of Marseille, his epic love story is a bittersweet saga brimming with warmth, generosity and humor.
Pagnol wrote the individual plays Marius and Fanny about the people and patois he knew well, and at the dawn of sound movies, he resolved to transpose them to film. He oversaw different directors for the two adaptations, and by the time he wrote César directly for the screen, he set about directing it himself. Rich in dialogue and saturated in piquant Provençal flavor and real locations, the movies are simultaneously the heights of theatricality and of screen realism, brought to life by a dream cast.
In 1946 Pagnol became the first filmmaker elected to the Académie français. Postwar Italian filmmakers saw in his work the germs of neorealism, and the young filmmakers of the French New Wave also regarded him as an influence. The films also have a history with our very own Berkeley, where they have long been staples at the Pacific Film Archive and inspired Alice Waters to name her restaurant Chez Panisse, after one of the films’ major characters. The Rafael is presenting the versions that have been extensively restored by Janus Films.
The films in the Marseille Trilogy were produced and released in different years. While they ultimately tell a single story, each film has an independent dramatic arc.