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Fanny | Review

Fanny Feast: Auteuil’s Underwhelming Trilogy Continues

Fanny Daniel Auteuil PosterThe mid-section of his Pagnol tribute, Fanny promises to give us the female perspective in the crossed lover’s situation established in preceding chapter, Marius. But just as the opening portion revolved at needless length around an eponymous character who is given little more to do than moon over finding his dream job on a big boat, the next segment feels more of a weary inevitability of the morose narrative than rather than signaling a differing viewpoint.

While Alexandre Desplat’s score dips less uneasily into insistent whimsicality in this more serious minded portion, it’s still more of a sycophantic simper than anything adroitly engaging with the material at hand. One can assume the final segment, Cesar, will suffer from the same slights, but unfortunately Auteuil’s extreme respect (and unnecessary proximity) in his adaptation of Pagnol’s material is exactly what’s detracting from the end results. Too fearful of revising, experimenting, or retooling the material to his own style, Auteuil neglects to bring any kind of notable flow at all, the film playing like a 3D pop out from a dusty, out of fashion novel calibrated for conservative audiences stuck in a bygone era of neutered consumption.

Picking up exactly where the closing moments of Marius left off, the opening segments of Fanny sets-up the dishonorable position the young woman is left in since she discovers she’s pregnant with his child. While her mother’s (Marie-Anne Chazel) less than happy with these circumstances and nearly threatens to cast her daughter out into the streets, a glimmer of hope remains for Fanny (Victoire Belezy) because Panisse (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) has once again expressed interest in marrying her. But Fanny refuses to lie about the pregnancy, which doesn’t seem to deter Panisse, either. However, once Cesar (Daniel Auteuil) discovers that his son has snuck off to sea, he’s convinced that Fanny will be waiting for him to return after his five year contract, vowing to take care of the baby and ignore the scandal rather than force Fanny into a marriage of convenience. Yet, it’s a social shame too great for Fanny and her mother. This convenient solution is tested when Marius makes a surprise visit home to find the woman he loves married and with his young son bearing another man’s name.

While Fanny does indeed have a little more dramatic action in its narrative offering than Marius, each predictable beat feels like the reluctant turning of a creaky wheel, churning out its obstacles against a doomed love in yawning succession. There are plenty of close-ups of Belezy’s distraught Fanny, usually wide-eyed with her breath held, perpetually primed for a faint. Yet for a segment named entirely for her, Fanny could just have easily been Marius Volume 2, as she’s merely an object placed where she fits best for everyone’s comfort, a thing to be claimed upon the return of her original owner.

While the esteemed Darroussin fares the best this go-round, Auteuil seems dumbfounded or doofy throughout, his silly Cesar now primed to take over the final act of this wallowing shindig that clearly wants to convey the sense of honor at stake within a strict and unforgiveable social milieu, yet doesn’t have any idea how to go about correctly showing it (likewise with other extreme emotions, like the passionate love Fanny feels for Marius).

If there’s a way to render Pagnol successfully, at least in a way that would make another adaptation of this work necessary, Auteuil’s mixed bag of rigid emotions and flat visualizations isn’t the ideal framework. Considering Claude Berri’s successful adaptations of other Pagnol titles in the mid-80s, Auteuil’s efforts seem ill conceived.


Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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