Topaze | Chicago Reader

Topaze

This is the second film Marcel Pagnol made of his stage play. The plot centers on a teacher (comic actor Fernandel) fired from his job for refusing to change the failing grade of a student, whose rich mother threatens to withdraw him, his brothers, and their tuition from the school. A corrupt politician offers the teacher a job of signing papers, and when he discovers that he's involved in graft he's shocked. But he quickly takes to it, outdoing, then double-crossing his small-time mentor. This entertaining comedy of corruptibility (1951) has considerable energy, but its momentum resides mostly in the script and performances; the rapid-fire delivery of the dialogue underscores the French love of language and the multiple ends toward which language can be used. The camera stays at a rather boring middle distance for most of the film, following the characters about almost invisibly and adding little to the story.

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