Image Entertainment presents
"So delicate... What an agreeable sample of what the rest of you must be like."- Panisse (Maurice Chevalier)
Stars: Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Charles Boyer, Horst Buchholz
Other Stars: Lionel Jeffries, Georgette Anys, Baccaloni, Raymond Bussieres, Joel Flateau
Director: Joshua Logan
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (thematic material)
Run Time: 02h:13m:47s
Release Date: 2008-06-17
DVD ReviewMarcel Pagnol's Marseilles Trilogy, consisting of the plays Fanny, Marius, and CÚsar, was adapted by its author for the 1932 film Fanny, and forged by Joshua Logan and Harold Rome into a Broadway musical in the 1950s. Pagnol's tale of romance and sacrifice was then reconverted into this dramatic film, sans the songs, but using Rome's lush score as background music. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, it's notable for the gorgeous photography by Jack Cardiff and being the only teaming of French romantic leads Charles Boyer and Maurice Chevalier.
The story centers on a pair of star-crossed lovers in seaside Marseilles, young Fanny (Leslie Caron) and Marius (Horst Buchholz), who are 18 and 19. Fanny is the daughter of fishmonger Honorine (Georgette Anys), while Marius is the son of CÚsar, a barkeeper (Boyer). Fanny is also pursued by the aged Panisse (Chevalier), a wealthy sailmaker. After a night of passion, Fanny and Marius are parted when she makes a well-meaning but ill-advised emotional sacrifice to allow him to pursue his dream of being a pilot at sea. Shortly after he leaves, however, Fanny learns that she is with child, and Panisse, eager for an heir, agrees to marry her and raise the boy as his own. But this situation is rife with issues when Marius returns home and learns the truth.
The central romance is a bit on the weak side; Caron and Buchholz don't have much chemistry, which isn't helped by Caron's limited skills (though she does get a couple good scenes in, especially as she tries to explain her embarrassed condition to Panisse). Buchholz does a better job with the impetuous young man determined to follow his ambitions. But the real chemistry is between Chevalier and Boyer, who are highly enjoyable every moment they're on the screen, with a grating rivalry masking a longstanding and deep friendship. They offer superb comic timing and are entirely credible throughout in their obsession over minor irritations. Panisse's interests in Fanny seem a little unhealthy, but then these are the French. Chevalier nevertheless makes much of the part, giving Panisse equally paternal and romantic facets to his fondness for Fanny; he's particularly touching as he discusses his love for the boy he has raised as his son, and the devastation he would feel if he lost him.
Cardiff's cinematography is stunning throughout, with the stage play nicely opened up to the cinematic canvas. That's particularly gorgeous in the scene as Marius sails away in the Malaisie, viewed from CÚsar's window high above the harbor. That harbor itself is a gorgeous setting, with plenty of character, and it's put to good use here, dripping with romantic possibilities, whether from human love or the drama of the sea lying just beyond. Cardiff makes the most of it, with plenty of sparkling views of water, land, ships, and harbor giving this picture a lively feeling that keeps visual interest primary at all times.
The story is propelled along a little artificially, with most of the conflict created by the machinations of the leering and half-mad Admiral (Raymond Bussieres), a Mephistophelean figure who indeed seems demonic as he knowingly or unknowingly creates difficulties for the young lovers (and ironically brings about the denouement). The mechanism feels a little forced, but works well enough in the context of misguided romantic self-sacrifice. Other notables supporting the picture are operatic bass Salvatore Baccaloni as a local ferryboat captain who flamboyantly drinks with the two old men, and Lionel Jeffries as an absurdly voyeuristic Englishman. Despite the shortcomings of Caron, the picture strives and succeeds to be better than she is, and doesn't fail to tug at the heartstrings.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen picture looks excellent and serves Cardiff's cinematography very well indeed. It doesn't have an overly-processed look, with plenty of detail and texture visible throughout and no edge enhancement. Shadow detail is reasonably good, and black levels are entirely fine. There's virtually no damage visible onscreen beyond the occasional speckle. The weatherbeaten faces of the old men come across quite strikingly, with the natural grain structure beautifully preserved. Although there have been reports of small digital glitches occasionally appearing, I was watching for them and didn't see any, so they're obviously not too obtrusive.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: Both the original mono and a 5.1 remix are included, though the 5.1 version isn't too full of impact; most of the surround activity is reserved for the music and occasional crowd noises. The score by Rome is lustrous and has excellent depth and texture, coming across with very good range in both versions. Hiss and noise are virtually imperceptible. The dialogue is atrociously dubbed, but that's a fault of the original production, not of the DVD.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Layers Switch: 01h:12m:20s
- Soundtrack CD
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsA visually gorgeous and emotionally raw romance of the French coast, with a very nice transfer, though little for extra materials.
Mark Zimmer 2008-07-09