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The Timeless Cinema of Marcel Pagnol

August 12, 2011 - August 31, 2011

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In celebration of the fortieth anniversary of Chez Panisse, BAM/PFA is pleased to present a retrospective of French filmmaker Marcel Pagnol, whose spirited cinema gave Alice Waters the name for Chez Panisse Restaurant; you may have seen the posters for Marcel Pagnol’s films on the walls of this famed Berkeley restaurant. Two other local eateries that have branched off from Chez Panisse, Café Fanny and César, are also named after Pagnol’s memorable screen characters.

Playwright-turned-screenwriter Marcel Pagnol (1895–1974) was raised in Marseilles, the son of a schoolteacher and a seamstress. When Pagnol began making films, he moved from Paris back to Provence to capture the arid landscape, colorful port city characters, and joie de vivre of his birthplace. An early practitioner of sound cinema, Pagnol’s films nailed the art of conversation: action is often propelled by gossip, humor, tall tales, and punditry. Pagnol’s fluid transition from his work as a successful playwright to his recognition as a film director and producer was due in large part to his understanding of the new form of the talkies, which he felt held immense possibilities for cinema. His naturalistic style and innovative use of location shooting influenced a generation of neorealists.

Pagnol’s films have long been favorites of PFA audiences, where our forty-year history has intersected with that of Chez Panisse, especially during the period when Tom Luddy was the director of the archive. Pagnol’s cinema is so rich that it rewards from repeated viewings and will become an addictive treat for newcomers.

Come visit on Saturday, August 27, when OPENeducation transforms BAM/PFA into an open classroom and living kitchen and the exhibition galleries will be open free of charge in celebration of Chez Panisse’s fortieth anniversary.

Susan Oxtoby
Senior Film Curator

Friday, August 12, 2011
7:00 p.m. Merlusse
Marcel Pagnol (France, 1935). Introduced by Alice Waters and Tom Luddy. Pagnol delicately balances realism and humanity to tell the story of a bearded, one-eyed teacher who is nicknamed Merlusse (codfish) by the kids who fear and revile him. (75 mins)

Friday, August 12, 2011
8:45 p.m. Harvest
Marcel Pagnol (France, 1937). Fanny's Orane Demazis is paired with Fernandel in Pagnol's haunting tribute to the harsh and giving land, "one of the true and essential French film classics" (Pauline Kael). Based on a novel by Jean Giono. (123 mins)

Sunday, August 14, 2011
5:00 p.m. Marius
Alexander Korda (France, 1931). The first installment in the beloved Fanny Trilogy introduces César, boisterous proprietor of a Marseilles bar; his son Marius, drawn by the call of the sea; and Fanny the fishmonger, the apex of a triangle between Marius and widower Panisse. "These films display such old-fashioned virtues as truth to life and boundless humanity" (Time Out). (122 mins)

Sunday, August 14, 2011
7:30 p.m. Fanny
Marc Allégret (France, 1932). The continuation of the trilogy is Fanny's tragedy but César's story: he is played by the incomparable Raimu. Repeated on August 21. (122 mins)

Sunday, August 21, 2011
5:00 p.m. Fanny
Marc Allégret (France, 1932). The continuation of the trilogy is Fanny's tragedy but César's story: he is played by the incomparable Raimu. Also playing on August 14. (122 mins)

Sunday, August 21, 2011
7:30 p.m. César
The conclusion of the trilogy poignantly evokes remembrances and regrets as the cycle of life and love begins again. "Today the modest charms and graces of the Pagnol trilogy seem more precious than ever" (Time Out). (116 mins)

Saturday, August 27, 2011
6:00 p.m. Cigalon
Marcel Pagnol (France, 1935). Introduced by Nicolas Pagnol. Pagnol considered this film about the rivalry between neighboring restaurants and their chefs—Cigalon, a master chef from Paris, and Madame Toffi, a former laundress —the funniest film he ever made. (73 mins)

Saturday, August 27, 2011
7:50 p.m. Angèle
Marcel Pagnol (France, 1934). The poetry is in the details of this tender Provençal portrait. "Pagnol's finest film" (Georges Sadoul). (135 mins)

Sunday, August 28, 2011
1:00 p.m. The Baker’s Wife
Added Screening! Marcel Pagnol (France, 1938). Introduced by Nicolas Pagnol and Tom Luddy. The Baker’s Wife is a warm and ribald comedy based on the idea that food is the life of a community. The great tragicomedian Raimu stars in this warm comedy. Orson Welles once called The Baker's Wife "a perfect movie," and Raimu "the greatest actor of the cinema." (124 mins)

Sunday, August 28, 2011
4:00 p.m. The Baker’s Wife
Marcel Pagnol (France, 1938). Introduced by Alice Waters and Tom Luddy. The Baker’s Wife is a warm and ribald comedy based on the idea that food is the life of a community. The great tragicomedian Raimu stars in this warm comedy. Orson Welles once called The Baker's Wife "a perfect movie," and Raimu "the greatest actor of the cinema." (124 mins)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011
7:00 p.m. The Well-Digger’s Daughter
Marcel Pagnol (France, 1940). Josette Day, the eponymous offspring in this film made during the Occupation, becomes pregnant by “the hardware store’s son,” who is forthwith sent to the front and didn’t intend to marry her anyway. This warm comedy, both pastoral and earthy, pits the rustic wit of Raimu, as the peasant father, against the sarcastic superiority of Charpin, as “the hardware store.” Raimu, Fernandel, and Josette Day in an earthy, compassionate comedy of unwed pregnancy, the first film begun in France under the Nazi Occupation. (120 mins)

We wish to thank the following individuals and organizations for their generous support of this retrospective: Denis Bisson, French Consulate of San Francisco; Nicolas Pagnol, Compagnie Méditerranéenne de Films; Gary Palmucci, Kino International; and the Chez Panisse Foundation.