directed by Raymond Leboursier
France 1945

 

It's easy to see why Marcel Pagnol was attracted to Zola's tale of Naïs Micoulin. Naïs, a country girl, is seduced by a young man from the city. Her over-possessive father opposes the relationship, while a local factory worker, Toine, a hunchback played by the popular comic actor Fernandel, pines in secret for Naïs. These are themes that Pagnol had explored already, notably in Angèle and La Fille du puisatier, and to which he would return in Manon des sources. Pagnol wrote the adaptation and dialogue for Naïs and closely supervised the production, involving himself to such an extent that he was effectively co-director with Raymond Leboursier.

As often with Pagnol, there is a large dose of sentiment and comedy. In Naïs, this is combined, often jarringly, with moments of shocking cruelty, and it is not always easy to reconcile the characters with the actions and dialogue that they are given. It is this, I think, that makes Naïs less artistically satisfying than some of Pagnol's earlier films. Whether you like Naïs may depend largely on your reaction to Fernandel, whose character dominates the film, and whose performance may be a little too ripe for modern tastes. It is, however, a tour-de-force role, and the beautifully written scene near the end of the film where he talks about hunchback children being "little angels with their wings tucked under their coats" is justly famous.

Michael St Aubyn

Posters

Theatrical Release: November 22nd, 1945

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DVD Review: CMF (La Compagnie Méditerranéenne de Films) - Region 2 - PAL

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Distribution

CMF (La Compagnie Méditerranéenne de Films)

Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 1:57:54 (4% PAL speedup)
Video

1.33 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

Audio French (mono)
Subtitles English, German, Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, French (HOH), none
Features Release Information:
Studio: CMF (La Compagnie Méditerranéenne de Films)

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33

Edition Details:
• Biography and bibliography of Marcel Pagnol
• Gallery of publicity stills
• Pages from the handwritten script (in French)
• Filmographies of Pagnol and principal actors
• Extracts from contemporary reviews (in French)
• Restoration comparison

DVD Release Date: September 15th, 2007
Digipak

Chapters 12

 

Comments:

CMF are doing a wonderful job of restoring and publishing the cinematic works of Marcel Pagnol. Marius, Fanny, César, Manon des sources, La Fille du puisatier and Le Schpountz are already available under their imprint. Naïs and Topaze are the latest additions, along with a separate documentary disc about Pagnol.

As the restoration comparison on the disc demonstrates, a lot of work has been done to clean up the image for this release. The result is very attractive: bright and sharp with nicely balanced contrast levels and no significant damage. If I had to find a fault it's that some of the greys in the darker scenes, particularly the skin tones, lack detail and stability. The final capture below is intended to illustrate this.

The mono soundtrack is also very pleasing. A slight hiss throughout, and some occasional crackles, but otherwise clean and clear, and thankfully free of the over-processing that can sometimes mar these restored editions (I despair each time Pathé Classique releases a DVD of a classic French film with the original mono stripped and a 5.1 surround track added). CMF's own edition of the Marius-Fanny-César trilogy is partly flawed, I feel, by the obvious and intrusive addition of modern sound effects. Happily, there is none of this on the Naïs disc. The optional English subtitles are accurate and well written.

Apart from the restoration comparison, the only extras are a gallery of photos, cast filmographies, and some screens of text in French: a short biography of Pagnol, some handwritten pages from the script, and extracts from contemporary reviews. At almost 30 Euros this is not a cheap disc, and one might have hoped for something more substantial in the way of bonus material - perhaps even the 52-minute documentary on Pagnol by Jean-François Bedel that has been released instead as a separate DVD.

Nevertheless, Pagnol fans will pounce on this disc and will not be disappointed by the treatment the film has received.

 - Michael St Aubyn

 



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Skin tones can be problematic in the darker scenes

 

 

 





 

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