Too easily overlooked, the tasty little morsel that is Cigalon
is one of Marcel Pagnol's
more accessible films, a succulent comedy that is not so much a farce
as a humorous fable, with a particularly cruel sting in the tail.
Pagnol was inspired to make the film after encountering a pompous
restaurateur in La Treille, in the outskirts of Marseille, who took a
sadistic pleasure in being rude to his customers. After the
serious drama Angèle
was keen to make a comedy which would allow him to try out a new sound
recording system. Pagnol's first attempt to shoot Cigalon
was not a success.
The sound system proved to be defective and the director had no
recourse but to shoot the film again, taking the opportunity to recast
most of the roles.
In the film's remount, the principal role of Cigalon, a chef with the
mother of all Napoleon complexes, went to Alexandre Arnaudy, replacing
Henri Poupon who was re-cast as the penniless bon vivant. A
larger-than-life performer, Arnaudy had recently taken the lead in a
stage production of Pagnol's play Topaze
and would memorably reprise the role in the director's first screen version
of the play in
1936. Perfectly ensconced in the main female role, the formidable
Madame Toffi, is the singer-actress Marguerite Chabert, who played
Honorine in the original 1931 stage production of Fanny
at the Théâtre
de Paris. Pagnol would later give Chabert a small but memorable
role in Regain
After the immense success of Angèle
the film that established Pagnol as a film director, Cigalon
was to prove a bitter
flop. The critics were unkind to Arnaudy, judging his performance
to be excessive, and audiences failed to warm to Pagnol's idea of
comedy. Totally eclipsed by the string of masterpieces that
Pagnol went on to make afterwards, Cigalon
has long been considered a minor work in the director's oeuvre, yet it
is not without charm. A kind of 1930s Provençal version of
(with a plot
that spookily resembles one episode in the BBC series), Cigalon
contains some of Pagnol's
funniest lines and most colourful characters. If
nothing else, it is the perfect appetiser
for Pagnol's more wholesome cinematic banquets. Bon appetit!
The above article was written for filmsdefrance.com and is protected by copyright. No part of it should be reproduced in any medium without the author's permission.
Cigalon manages a restaurant in a small town in Provence. A chef
with a high opinion of his past culinary achievements, he makes no
effort to attract customers and is rude to those who venture into his
establishment expecting to be fed...