On to 1961…
Based on a Broadway musical, Fanny is the story of young love conflicting with dreams of adventure. Fanny and Marius have always loved each other, but Marius snuffs Fanny’s affections because he plans on sailing the seas. As Fanny turns 18, she grows weary of Marius always pushing away. One day, in Marius’s father’s bar, Fanny outright flirts with Panisse, a widower pushing 70, only to make Marius jealous. Panisse takes her affection seriously and goes to her mother to propose marriage. Naturally, Fanny turns Panisse down and Marius is finally able to tell Fanny he loves her. In a fit of young love, the two sleep together, but are found out by Fanny’s mother. Before Marius can sneak back into his bedroom, a marriage is being arranged, and with it, his dreams of sailing will vanish. Trying to be noble, Fanny tells Marius to get on a boat quickly so that he can sail before she ties him down into marriage. Unfortunately, Marius has left Fanny with child.
The story is beautiful, smart and easily followed. From being adapted from a musical, the writing flows naturally and the dialogue is delivered elegantly. The acting is masterful and very moving at points. One of the best things is that there is a good mixture of laughter and emotion and one never gets in the way of the other. It’s easy to laugh along with the locals at the way they mess with foreigners. The poignant acting by Horst Buchholz is so passionate he can make women cry and wish they had a young French sailor.
If you’re a fan of the musical, sorry, but there’s not a note of singing. However, many familiar numbers swell in the background, and even those not familiar with them will find their hearts lifted by the music.
Now, I have to rant about how sexist the movie becomes after Fanny gets pregnant. Yes, this is set in the 1920’s, but produced in the 1960’s. It’s a bit much when Fanny’s mother proceeds to slap her around, telling her to go walk the streets. Why didn’t her mother react like this when she found them in bed? Surely, in the 20’s people weren’t completely blind to sex leading to pregnancy.
Nowadays, where kids are on a mission to get laid all the time, this plot has grown stale. Juno doesn’t marry Michel-Cera-in-yellow-shorts and certainly wouldn’t look for some old moneybags to shack up with. The fact that a young mother is willing to marry an elderly man is just creepy. Today, we call it Gold Digging, and that wrinkly old guy is making sure he gets some.
But in all seriousness, this is a good movie. The characters are engaging, the plot, how ever weathered, is heartfelt and meaningful. The theme of love between family, lovers and friends is one that rings true for generations to come.
I recommend Fanny to anyone who is a fan of the original musical or loves fairy tales. Watch Fanny with your French grandparents so they can reminisce. Watch it with your girlfriend to convince her to get on the pill.
“Lecher! What? Eunuch! Oh, Marius, be consistent. He can’t be both.”