Marcel Pagnol’s Marseille Trilogy

JUNE 4-5, 11-13

“A long-overdue revival ... This trilogy will surprise you with its emotional and psychological complexities.”

“A classic of poetic French cinema ... Often remade and remade, but never equaled.”

Unseen on Vancouver screens in almost three decades, and now brilliantly restored, Marcel Pagnol’s Marseille Trilogy is one of the most beloved achievements of the classical French cinema. Playwright Pagnol (1895-1974), a native of Provence and a chronicler of Provençal culture and life, was a significant figure in French theatre when, early in the sound era, he embraced the cinema as a means of wider exposure. The trilogy made him internationally famous and helped establish the reputation of French cinema in the English-speaking world. Marius (1931), Fanny (1932), and César (1936) — the first two adapted from popular Pagnol plays and directed by, respectively, Alexander Korda and Marc Allégret; the third written directly for the screen and directed by Pagnol himself — are warm, humorous. semi-naturalistic films set amongst a group of working-class characters on the Marseille waterfront. Acted by an ensemble cast of magnificent French performers — including the great Raimu, considered by Orson Welles (and others) “the greatest actor who ever lived” — they depict, in observant, lively, wonderfully unhurried fashion, a span of two decades in the lives of Fanny (Orane Demazis), a young woman who peddles shellfish in Marseille’s Old Port; Marius (Pierre Fresnay), Fanny’s seafaring former boyfriend; Panisse (Fernand Charpin), the much-older admirer who pursues Fanny in Marius’s absence; and César (Raimu), the bar owner who is Marius’s father.

“I want to live in those films.”

Pagnol’s plays and books, often adapted, and his original films, frequently remade, have spawned a wealth of cinema (including Claude Berri’s popular 1980s films Jean de Florette and Manon des sources, derived from Pagnol novels). The original Marseille Trilogy remains unsurpassed in translating Pagnol’s universe to the screen. Seeing it for the first time, the famed American chef and organic food champion Alice Waters, who would name her Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse after the Pagnol character, declared, “I want to live in those films.”


Click for film notes + showtimes

Recent Showings

The first instalment in Marcel Pagnol’s heartfelt, gently comic, warmly rendered Marseille Trilogy features the original cast of his hit stage play.
In the second film of Marcel Pagnol’s great Marseille Trilogy, Fanny allows herself to be wooed and wed by the middle-aged widower.
Marcel Pagnol directed the third and most moving instalment of his marvelous Marseille Trilogy, set twenty years after the events of Fanny.