Touching and wistful, simple without being simple-minded, MY FATHER'S GLORY is a film gloriously free of dramatic conflict.
Set at the turn of the century in Marseilles and the lovely countryside in and around Provence, events are seen through the eyes of young Marcel (Julien Ciamaca) but they are narrated--and reappraised--by an elderly, reflective Marcel (Jean-Pierre Darras). Young Marcel, along with his little
brother Paul (Victorien Delmare), Joseph (Philippe Caubere), Marcel's schoolteacher father, and Augustine (Nathalie Roussel), the lads' radiantly beautiful mother, all have one thing in common--a passion for the countryside and visits to their rustic farmhouse, truly a home away from home.
Unfortunately, Joseph must make his living teaching in town, while Marcel and, eventually, Paul, must likewise attend school.
Marcel adores his father and is terribly proud of him. As such, the youngster is a little afraid his father may fall short of his high expectations when oncle Jules (Didier Pain) arrives. He's a fun-loving, well-to-do Catholic who's married Joseph's spinsterish sister Rose (Therese Liotard).
Joseph himself is an avowed agnostic, hence the genuine rivalry between the two. Jules loves to go pheasant shooting and he feels this hunt may well be his opportunity to lord it over Joseph. Marcel desperately wants to join the men on the hunt, but they sneak off early without waking him.
Distraught, Marcel runs after his father and uncle, only to find himself lost in the surrounding mountains. In short order, he's befriended by the young shepherd Lili (Joris Molinas) and the pair spend the night in a cave with a hauntingly vivid hoot owl.
Meanwhile, Marcel's worst fears are realized--for awhile--as Joseph proves to be less familiar with firearms than Jules. Indeed, Jules is having a ball showing off for Joseph until a fluke of fortune really turns things around for his brother-in-law, much to Jules' chagrin ... and much to the
delight of Marcel. Indeed, Marcel learns during his eleventh summer that while his father may not be absolutely perfect, he is, after all, a pretty wonderful guy.
Although nothing much happens, the highlights of MY FATHER'S GLORY include many loving moments depicting the eccentricities of the various Pagnol family members--whether alone or together. What makes the film work, often brilliantly, is the way in which director Yves Robert, cinematographer
Robert Alazraki and a superb ensemble cast have so richly brought to life--with its unique aura of innocence--a specific time and place.
Perhaps the best--and most satisfying--way to enjoy this adapatation of La Glorie de mon pere, the first book in beloved French novelist Marcel Pagnol's four-volume memoirs, is to spend an additional sitting viewing its sequel, MY MOTHER'S CASTLE. Viewing these films back-to-back is not only a
sheer joy, it also affords the audience an opportunity to absorb the entire visual and emotional spectrum of the two works, as well as the small, subtle ironies connecting them.
Sweet and poignant in just the right measure, MY FATHER'S GLORY is a truly decent family film that is both sentimental and affectionate without being condescending or sappy. Such is its cumulative impact that, long after the film has concluded, its beauty lingers in the mind.
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