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In 1918, shellshocked from his experiences in the First World War, Garris (Jacques Gamblin) stumbles through the marshes of provincial France. He is given shelter by a 92-year-old man (Jacques Duflho) who dies during the night, bequeathing his cottage to Garris. Fifteen years later, Garris still lives there, surviving by doing odd jobs in the nearby town: selling orchids, singing traditional songs, gardening, gathering snails. Most of the time he works alongside his close friend Riton (Jacques Villeret) a limited but good-hearted fellow who loves a glass of wine. Their friends include the bookish, genteel Amadee (Andre Dussollier) and M. Richard, an elderly, successful businessman with an extended family, who pines for the simpler days when he, too, was a poor marsh-dweller. But though the life Garris and Riton share appears idyllic, privately Garris wishes he could escape from the responsibility of looking after his friend, and make something more of his life.

"Undeniably, this film has craft, charm, and expert performances. It succeeds perfectly in what it sets out to do - evoke rural France between the wars, provide laughs and a little tragedy. Nothing very worrying or exciting happens most of the time. It is, in short, a pastoral. That isn't to say it lacks narrative. In fact, there are more subplots than seem strictly necessary; numerous characters pop up briefly, then vanish, suggesting that they might have played more important parts in the original novel. The director, Jean Becker, cuts briskly from one narrative strand to another, ensuring that any potentially cloying, sentimental scenes are over fast and painlessly. There are enough 'serious' undercurrents to create interest and keep the story going: hostility between classes and family members; dark memories of the First World War; lost loves; the hard truth that Riton, a likeable buffoon, is also a shiftless drunk who neglects his family. Yet all of these issues are finally glossed over: conflicts are defused, everything works out for the best. You go away remembering the camaraderie, the scenery, and the old folk customs (all three are combined in a lovely scene where one character fishes for frogs). As someone commented at the start of the screening I attended, 'this is the kind of life we all dream about living.' The film is canny enough to make fun of this dream a bit, especially in the character of Amadee, a fey, ageing bachelor (nicely played by Andre Dussollier) who's full of romantic sentiments, idealising Garris and Riton as 'the last free men.' Yet the mild irony with which he's treated hardly detracts from the film's similar idealisation of the poor, simple life - at least when viewed from a nostalgic distance in this picturesque form."
Jake Wilson

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(Les Enfants du marais)

CAST: Jacques Villeret, Jacques Gamblin, Andre Dussollier, Michel Seault, Isabelle Carré, Eric Cantona, Suzanne Flon, Jacques Durfilho, Gisele Casadesus, Roland Magdane, Elisabeth Commelin, Julie Marboeuf, Jenny Cléve, Philippe Magnan, Jacques Boudet

DIRECTOR: Jean Becker

PRODUCER: Christian Fechner, Hervé Truffaut

SCRIPT: Sébastien Japrisot (from the novel by Georges Montforez)


EDITOR: Jacques Witta

MUSIC: Pierre Bachelet




AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 15, 2000 (Melbourne)
Sept 21, 2000 (Sydney)

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