Friday, November 5, 2010

The Return of Martin Guerre

Daniel Vigne, France, 1982 (8.5*)
This is a much copied true story, and as such must be declared to be the archetypal missing person story. Gérard Depardieu, in one of his best roles, plays a man who returns to his pastoral village in 16th century France after eight years away in a war; most assumed he had died. Not everyone is sure that he is the man he claims to be, yet he knows about most of the people there, so he wins the trust of some, dividing the town.

The wife, wonderfully played by Nathalie Baye, claims it is her husband. However, this was a time when all women, including wives, could not own land outright, and if their husbands died, those widows without a male heir would likely have their land taken by the state. Therefore the question of true and valid identity of the husband becomes a legal as well as social issue, of special interest to the church.

This intriguing and engrossing mystery is actually a case recorded in history, hence both it's survival today and popularity as a theme in films. It was most recently used in the Robin Hood film with Russell Crowe as Robin assuming the missing husband's role for Cate Blanchett as Mirian so she would not lose her land. This beautifully shot period piece is one of my favorite 10 French films.


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Artist, photographer, composer, author, blogger, metaphysician, herbalist

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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