Marcel Pagnol

Author: Brett Bowles

One of the first commentators to attempt a balanced reassessment of Pagnol was Cahiers du cinéma founder André Bazin, who in his 1959 classic Qu'est-ce que le cinema? devoted a chapter to the filmmaker as part of an extended reflection on the links between theatre and cinema. Bazin broke new ground by rejecting the longstanding tendency to dismiss Pagnol's work as the cinematic recycling of theatrical convention and by recognising the value of subordinating image to speech. This book offers the first comprehensive, scrupulously documented, and unapologetically critical reading of Pagnol's cinema. It highlights his singular contribution to classic French film as an auteur and businessman while at the same time evaluating the larger cultural and aesthetic stakes of his movies. Rather than adopting a strictly chronological approach, the book traces the emergence of Pagnol's signature style in theatre and presents an epilogue that surveys the afterlife of his work in France since the mid-1970s. It discusses the definitive opening up of Pagnol's theatrically inspired cinema and his maturation from dramatic author into bona fide screen director. While Pagnol battled to defend and perfect his signature brand of cinématurgie, he simultaneously pursued an alternative production model that rejected both theatrical convention and contemporary film industry practice by shooting feature-length pictures on site in the Provençal countryside. The success of Pagnol's business model was unmatched in 1930s French cinema, offering industry insiders and the general public welcome proof that their nation could not only defend its unique cultural identity against Americanisation.

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