Reviewed by: Brian Nigro
“My Father’s Glory” is a wonderful foreign film about childhood and family, based on the life of French novelist Marcel Pagnol. It’s first part of a story that concludes with “My Mother’s Castle.”
In French with subtitles, the movie is narrated by a grown-up Marcel. We immediately meet him as child and his family: his father, who’s a schoolteacher; his mother, who’s a homemaker; his aunt and the housekeeper. It’s truly rare to see such a warm and positive characterization of family.
Ironically, I think most children will find this movie dreadfully boring, because it’s told from an adult’s perspective. The film style is very, very similar to Malle’s “Au Revoirs, Les Enfants”—and, I nearly fell asleep when I had to endure that one in high school French class (I’m not saying it’s a bad movie—either you have the taste for it or you don’t).
Another aspect that will fly above children’s heads is the underlying religious subtext. Marcel’s dad is Protestant, Uncle Jules is Catholic, and they debate faith at every family gathering. Like family, faith is treated in a formal and respectful manner.
Since I can’t pinpoint one plot, I’ll simply say it’s about Marcel’s growing fondness for the nature and for the hills of the French countryside. Same plot that carries underlies story’s continuation into “My Mother’s Glory”.
What is the father’s glory of the title? Well, I can’t say specifically, though it would be accurate to regard this part as a tribute to father (as the second part is a tribute to mother).
All of the actors and actresses in this movie are unknown. This contributes to a major sense of discovery in watching this, knowing that these actors ARE these characters. I hope Hollywood never remakes this (another pair of Pagnol’s work, “Jean de Florette” and “Manon of The Spring”, with Gérard Depardieu, haven’t yet, so one can hope), because the sense of wholesomeness would be flushed down the toilet.
The “G” rating is slightly misleading, however. While there is absolutely no profanity or suggestive material, there is a glimpse of breastfeeding, a stark naked Marcel and brother washing themselves with a hose (to their mother and aunt’s amusement), and a hunting sequence that may frighten younger children. Some of the content is in a gray area between “G” and “PG”. I’d suggest parents pre-screen or fast-forward the questionable scenes, because I feel the remaining 99% of the movie is appropriate for family viewing.
“My Father’s Glory” was directed by Yves Robert and released in 1990 by Orion. It should be available on video most rental outlets.