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World Trilogies: Pagnol’s Fanny Trilogy

Many film directors have explored the possibilities of the trilogy — indeed, a series devoted to the three-part form has the potential to feature any number of great works from the history of cinema. This fall, BAMPFA offers a trio: Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy, Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colors, and Marcel Pagnol’s Fanny Trilogy. Each includes films that can be seen as individual, self-contained stories or as part of a set, allowing filmgoers a chance to sample or revisit specific films or see the trajectory of characters, stories, and ideas across an entire trilogy.

The Fanny Trilogy includes:

Alexander Korda (France, 1931)
Wednesday, December 28, 3:45pm
Pagnol directed only one of his Fanny Trilogy, as the films Marius, Fanny, and César are affectionately known, but he is the true auteur of all three films about the inhabitants of the old port of Marseilles. See one or see all three—each is a gem on its own. Marius establishes the characters of César (Raimu), philosopher-at-large and proprietor of a quayside bar; his son Marius (Pierre Fresnay), whose dreams of a life at sea blind him and finally bind him to the love of Fanny, a fishmonger (Orane Demazis); and Panisse (Charpin), a kindly widower who quotes poetry from face-cream pots and waits in the wings for Fanny’s hand. Both Marius’s and Panisse’s wishes are granted, but it’s no fairy tale.

Marc Allégret (France, 1932)
Thursday, December 29, 3:45pm
The Fanny Trilogy is ostensibly concerned with the passions of the youngsters, Marius and Fanny, but it is the older generation who dominate. They are the spinners of fantasy, theirs the impossible logic and fast-talking energy that are life itself in this quayside community. This is true from the sidewalk gents who take bets on the melodrama unfolding before them, to Fanny’s manipulating Mama, to Panisse, and especially César. Orson Welles once called Raimu the greatest actor of the cinema, and it is Raimu’s presence that pulls the threads of this twenty-year saga into a beautiful whole. The second film in the trilogy may be Fanny’s tragedy, but it is César’s story, as he asserts his strange wisdom and his mad love to create something marvelous—a family—out of characters who are all “at sea.”

Marcel Pagnol (France, 1936)
Friday, December 30, 3:45pm
The third part of the Fanny Trilogy opens, some twenty years after Fanny, with the confessions of Panisse on his deathbed. True to form, these occasion something other than tears—digressions so lengthy and so funny Panisse forgets to die. The son he has raised with Fanny (with a little help from “godfather” César) is now old enough to track down his real father. And so the story of Fanny and Marius begins again. Love is revolution in every sense of the word. “Today the modest charms and graces of the Pagnol trilogy seem more precious than ever” (Time Out).