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PASSION FOR LIFE

France, 1948 (MIFF 1960, Programme 13)

Director: Jean-Paul le Chanois

Monsieur Pascal, a young school-master, arrives to take up his duties in a little Provencal village. He revises the oldfashioned authoritative methods of the retiring master, M. Arnaud, and sets out to win his pupils' cooperation. The Municipal Council is antagonistic, and when the firewood supply is withheld, M. Pascal chops up the school platform. For this, he enlists the help of Albert, a disappointed and lonely boy, whose destructive leadership over the rest of the boys M. Pascal successfully challenges. The presentation of a small printing press to his pupils on which they print the fruits of their various researches brings the Council's indignation against M. Pascal to a climax, and his resignation is demanded. He agrees to tender this if a single pupil fails the final examination. But all succeed including Albert, in whom vindictive mistrust has yielded to devoted loyalty. M. Pascal returns in triumph to the school and to Lise, now converted to his methods and eager to share his life.

Unaffected and direct, this modest film is stamped throughout with the warmth of its director's personality. No profound presentation of master-pupil relationships is attempted and the events add up to little more than a charming fiction, but this in no way invalidates the film's quality. Life in the Provencal village has been caught beautifully by a camera always discreetly alert. The villains - the Municipal Council and the examiners - are most engagingly characterised in fresh local terms; one examiner in particular, with an involuntarily winking eye, is a sinister joy. The film so effortlessly established its world that the pupils' examination affords a genuinely dramatic climax, lowering resistance to the somewhat over-written speech on the Rights of Man by the school's enfant terrible. But the appeal of the film derives largely from the unempathetic ease of the treatment, the spontaneous air of the comedy and the affection for youth it so strongly conveys.

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