Monday, 20 April 2009

La Gloire de mon Père (1990) et Le Château de ma Mère (1990)

The two films are based on the autobiographies of Marcel Pagnol- the author of Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources. I enjoyed the films because they reminded me so much of my childhood holidays to France, this sounds ridiculous as it was only the 80s/early 90s, but my fondest memories of holidays were our on-the-cheap-to-France; living in houses which were clearly just old barns, all sleeping in the same room- because there was only one room, lizards, crickets, rats, people's dogs coming in the house, walking around farmland and sneakily stealing corn and apples. This was what France was to me, it was rustic, old fashioned- cheap! The turn of the century France of the films I swear is the same France I holidayed in.
The people who own those holiday gaffs now have cashed in on them, done them up. We can't afford to stay there now, but if
we could it wouldn't be my childhood, there would be television and swimming pools- horror. I don't have much of a memory but I very clearly remember all of those early hols... The films are about the writer's summer holidays as a child (The house they summer in I'd say was much more up-market than the ones my family stayed in!) The colours and the sounds of the film are all spot on to how I romantically think of my first holidays (and all the dining scenes were perfect too! Huge spreads and all the family sitting down, ah! C'est magnifique!)
The plot, there's not much to it, it's a memoir, it's not supposed to be exciting, it's just beautifully made and charming. Wonderful narrative from Pagnol, perfectly identifiable feelings about one's parents, very sweet, romantic and because of the French humor (my favourite) not at all sentimental. The first film is Marcel losing faith in his schoolmaster father for the first time, but it is not lost for long. The Second film is set immediately after, the next day practically, and is the family returning to their holiday home where Marcel discovers girls (a horrible brat he is smitten by! Luckily he is soon disillusioned.) but mostly is about the family discovering a short-cut to their holiday home via a network of private passageways in the grounds of local manor houses.
Yes, I've said it before, the French can make spellbinding cinema about nothing. The films were nostalgic, romantic and beautiful, I fell in love with them. There are some hilarious scenes; attitudes and characters that would not exist in British or American cinema appear throughout and fill me with joy! A particular favourite was the angry gardener who runs up to the family swearing and brandishing a pitchfork shouting: "I'll kill you!" but whispers to the family, "The boss is watching, please forgive me, the old bastard- I hope he dies soon, next time go down by the tomatoes," "If I catch you here again I'll shoot you!!" "You'd better run, make it look good, I'm so sorry, have a nice holiday."

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