'Father's Glory': all aglow with warm memories

November 21, 1991|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

The French have a wonderful saying -- "Nostalgie de la boue," which means "nostalgia for the mud," and refers to the proclivity of intelligent people to revere degradation, violence and perversion, which they have not experienced. It explains why they so love Jean Genet and Jim Thompson.

Now I'm about to invent a new wonderful French saying.

My wonderful French saying -- no, I do not speak or read French -- is "Nostalgie de la creme," which means nostalgia for the cream, and refers to the proclivity of intelligent people to revere nobility, honor and innocence, which they also have not experienced. It explains why they so love Marcel Pagnol.

Pagnol, a novelist, playwright and filmmaker, is a French national treasure, member of the fancy pants French academy and all that. His work will be most familiar to Americans as the basis of "Fanny" and, more recently, for the source material that became Claude Berri's "Jean De Florette" and "Manon of the Spring."

"My Father's Glory" is derived by director Yves Robert from Pagnol's childhood memoir and if ever a work exhibited nostalgie de la creme it is this one.

What a wonderful childhood! What a beautiful story! How charming! How enlightening! How brilliant!

How utterly depressing! It made me feel the way I felt when I was a kid watching "Leave It To Beaver" and grew suicidally morose because my mother (and no mother I knew) got up before dawn to put on makeup and pearls and fix a perfect breakfast with representatives of all four food groups.

Anyway . . . "My Father's Glory," which opens today at the Charles, is simple, heartfelt and sweet as cream. With narration derived from Pagnol's book, the old man (unseen) remembers a magical summer he spent with his family in the rugged and picturesque countryside outside Provence (the scenery will be familiar to those who saw "Manon").

So, yes, this movie is really about "What I Did on My Summer Vacation."

What young Marcel (Victorien Delmare) did was watch as his beloved father, the banty little school teacher Joseph (Philippe Caubere), stood up to and overcame the pompous Uncle Jules by becoming more of a hunter than Jules.

You keep waiting for the big complication -- where amateurs use guns sloppily, surely a tragedy is building -- but it never gets there. Instead the movie unspools in sunshine and warm remembrance and mild self-deprecation. It's slight but enjoyable, all cream.

'My Father's Glory'

Starring Philippe Caubere and Nathalie Roussel.

Directed by Yves Robert.

Released by Orion Classics.



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