Keswick Film Club - Reviews - Fanny

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Reviews - Fanny


Reviewed By Vaughan Ames

The Film Club Spring Season finished on Sunday with 'Fanny'. This followed on from 'Marius', the first film of the season, and is the second film taken from in the 'Marseille' trilogy written by Marcel Pagnol. The director, Daniel Auteuil, started his career as an actor back in the 1970s, but became famous in 'Jean de Florette' – also written by Pagnol; this trilogy is his homage to the writer.

So was it all worth it? The first film, 'Marius' was reasonably received at the club; it was a lightweight love story, but beautifully filmed and acted. 'Fanny' carries on in the same way, starting where the first finished; we are in 1920s Marseille and Fanny has feinted as she sees her lover Marius sailing off, bound for a 5 year voyage around the world. César, Marius' father, carries her off to her mother in the role he plays throughout the film – Fanny's support in her hours of need. What César doesn't know is that his son has left; when Fanny recovers and tells him, he too is devastated. He becomes bad tempered and crotchety, pretending not to care about his son, but waiting every day for the postman to bring him news.

All the town knows what he really thinks and there is a great comic interlude where his three best friends try to get him to open up. This comedy is always in the background throughout the movie, and was, for me, the best way Auteuil raised the film from being just a smultzy love story; I am sure some people didn't think he raised it very far..!

Fanny is also finding it impossible to get over her loss and she eventually finds out what most of the audience has already guessed from the obvious clues; she is pregnant. In 1920s France, this was scandalous and she and her family are wondering what she can do to save their reputation. Fortunately, Monsieur Panisse, the much older, rich sailmaker who has asked for hand before, repeats his proposal. Fanny refuses to dupe him and tells him about the baby, whereupon he is even more pleased; he can have the boy he has always wanted to take over his business (in another comic moment, he shows Fanny the letters he has had prepared to add to his shop front for years – 'et fils' ('and son'). Whilst he is proposing, César comes in to the shop for the funniest scene of the film – the two men argue over whether Panisse or Marius can marry Fanny, with César wanting to be, first, the grandfather of the child and then settling for godfather.

After a glorious wedding and the birth of a son (of course!), the town settles down to a couple of years of bliss for the new family, until Marius comes home on leave and tries to woo his lover once more. He guesses the child is his, and demands his 'rights' as the father (he is definitely not a modern man here! Neither Fanny or the child seem to matter much to him, just his own happiness). As they are about to kiss, César comes in, closely followed by Panisse, both demanding that he considers the future of the child more than himself. He is still unconvinced until Fanny tells him to go; she is devastated as losing him once again, but has to put her child first.

The morals of the story here are such a labyrinth and the key point of the story. If society had not been so crazy, Fanny would have had the baby and waited for Marius, her true love, to return; Panisse has been really understanding (for the day) in marrying a pregnant woman, but very selfish in doing it because he wanted a child too; Marius had run off to sea, but returned as he realised how much in love he was and César has gone from broken-hearted father to upholder of his grandchild's rights (the film ends with him putting Marius back on a train to return to his ship).

The acting was superb, with Auteuil and Jean-Pierre Darroussin amazing as César and Panisse and Victoire Bélézy looking beautifully upset as Fanny. Once again the camerawork and scenery were given enough scope to make Marseille look lush in the background to the action. Overall 'Fanny' went down well with the Keswick audience, coming out as one of our most popular films of the season.

The third film of the trilogy – 'César' - is still being made, so we may have to wait a while before finding out what there is left to tell us; to start with, is the title about the grandfather or the new child...?

Keswick Film Club is now taking its summer break and will be back in September with another season of films that wouldn't be shown in Keswick otherwise.

Thanks to all of you who have come to any of our films; I hope you have enjoyed yourself, and that you enjoy the summer; don't forget the Alhambra programme continues right through, so there are films to see every day - See you there!

Vaughan Ames, chair Keswick Film Club

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Keswick Film Club won the Best New Film Society at the British Federation Of Film Societies awards in 2000.

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