Nicolas Pagnol, promoter of his grandfather Marcel’s work in Montreal

The Outremont theater paid a tribute Thursday night in Montreal to the work of playwright and novelist Marcel Pagnol.

Actors Christian Guérin and Fred Achard, and stage director Nicolas Pagnol on stage at the Outremont Theatre (Montreal). Photo credit: Jean-Charles Labarre.
Actors Christian Guérin and Fred Achard, and stage director Nicolas Pagnol on stage at the Outremont Theatre (Montreal). Photo credit: Jean-Charles Labarre.

Classics of French literature, his novels have transcended borders, establishing him as a true ambassador and myth of French culture. But it is also his films, including the Marseille trilogy La Gloire de mon père, La Fille du Puisatier, or Manon Des Sources – to name but a few – that have made Pagnol the funny and romantic legend that his name evokes today.

By Camille Balzinger

Contacted by phone, Marcel Pagnol’s grandson tells us how the project came about. A childhood friend ofIsabelle Longnus, the latter, who lives in Canada, confided to him that Quebec audiences seem to know Pagnol but would like to discover him more. The Leclerc production company bets on the success of the project, and the latter is put together in just six months. Consisting of the play Jules et Marcel in the first part (directed by Nicolas Pagnol and with the participation of Raymond Cloutier), a discussion with the actors, then the screening of the movie Marius, the audience had the privilege of discovering Marcel Pagnol in different ways.

This exclusive creation (the play, discussion, screening format) aims to introduce the man, to contextualize his work, and to show why it remains major in twentieth century cinema. The participation of Raymond Cloutier – a Quebec actor and comedian – allows for the link between the work and Quebec: it is for him to narrate to his fellow citizens the exchanges between the two other actors, making the work, a French monument, accessible and adapted across the Atlantic.

A playful and humorous performance

The evening began with the play Jules et Marcel, narrated by Raymond Cloutier and performed by Fred Achard (with a thundering Marseilles accent) and Christian Guérin. Directed by Nicolas Pagnol and adapted by Pierre Tré-Hardy, the play consists of an epistolary exchange between Marcel Pagnol and Raimu. We can see the tender relationship between the two friends, the power relationships constantly interchanged between one and the other, the passages from love to anger… In short, here is the meeting of two geniuses of French cinema and theater needing each other, playing permanent seduction, for the love of cinema. If the play adopts a light tone, full of humor, it is not a simple vaudeville, but above all a clever mixture of laughter and seriousness. The actors, excellent in both registers, keep the audience curious to know the content of the exchanges, concerning the collaborations and their conditions of the actor and the playwright. In the end, the play shows the complexity of a brotherly love that seems unchangeable through time and success.

Then follows the meeting time, when everyone in the bar is free to congratulate, question and discuss with Nicolas Pagnol and the actors.

After that, the screening of the film, Marius, renovated last year in 4k and originally shot in 1931, begins. A solid classic of French cinema, the story takes place at the waterfront bar of César, Marius’ father. With a love story and a child screaming captain, a card game and breakfast, it’s always nice to see such a classic again in a venue as beautiful as the Outremont Theatre.

The aim of the exclusive creation was finally achieved: the public discovered an intimate Marcel Pagnol, through the play and the discussion, and his brilliant work through Marius!

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