Le Petit Monde de Don Camillo
|Le Petit monde de don Camillo (French)
Don Camillo (Italian)
|Directed by||Julien Duvivier|
|Written by||Giovannino Guareschi (novel), Julien Duvivier, Oreste Biancoli, René Barjavel|
|Starring||Fernandel, Gino Cervi, Franco Interlenghi, Vera Talchi|
|Music by||Alessandro Cicognini|
|Running time||107 min|
Le Petit Monde de don Camillo ("The Little World of don Camillo"), or Don Camillo in Italian, is a 1952 French-Italian film directed by Julien Duvivier, starring Fernandel and Gino Cervi. It was the first film in the "don Camillo" series, which made Fernandel an international star. The film was based on the novel Don Camillo by author Giovannino Guareschi. It was followed in 1953 by The Return of Don Camillo, also directed by Duvivier.
The story starts in a small [albeit unnamed] town, simply known as "a small world", in the Po lowlands of northern Italy, in the early summer of 1946. The town's Communist party led by Peppone has just won the majority of seats within the city council, an event which they exploit for propagandistic purposes – and with some non-vocal, but church bell-assisted protest by the outraged don Camillo, the spiritual leader of the town's Christian political party –, when an unexpected event puts an instant stop to this arising conflict: Peppone has just added a new member, a son, to his family, and following a personal and pugilistic appeal by Peppone himself (as well as some admonishment from Christ) to a reluctant don Camillo, the child is baptized in Camillo's church. Similar conflicts arising in the course of the story are settled between don Camillo and Peppone in a similarly conflicting, but ultimately unified fashion, such as:
- the erection of a kindergarten for the town after don Camillo finds out that Peppone has used money stolen from the fascists during World War II to finance the construction of his new community hall and blackmails him with this knowledge;
- a farmhand strike organized by the Communists to impose a special tax on the wealthier landowners in order to give the town's people work, resulting in the local cattle herds not getting milked until both don Camillo and Peppone surreptitiously resolve the problem together;
- a river blessing procession and the funeral of the town's generally respected old teacher, Ms. Christina, which are both kept strictly non-political despite the Communists' initial intentions;
An important side story within the film is the Romeo and Juliet-esque relationship between a young girl named Gina Filotti, who has just returned to the town from boarding school as the story begins, and a young man named Mariolino Brusco. Gina and Mariolino's blossoming relationship, however, is off to a bad start: not only that the families of Gina (as Christians) and Mariolino (as Communists) are on ideologically opposite sides, they are also entertaining a long-running private feud. When their cause finds no support with neither Peppone as the mayor, nor with Camillo as a priest, the two lovers decide to commit a double suicide. Fortunately, both opposing parties come to their senses just in time, rescue the two and get the wedding underway; but during the combined wedding and house-warming festivities for the now-finished community hall and kindergarten, don Camillo takes offense at one of Peppone's better throws at an Aunt Sally stall, which results in a public mass brawl.
Even though Peppone resents don Camillo's interferences and their after-effects on personal health, he secretly enjoys their amicable quarrels and repeatedly tries his best to persuade the local bishop not to have Camillo replaced. However, with this last misdeed the bishop decides to send Camillo to a different community, and Peppone has threatened Camillo's parish not to say farewell to him as he is about to depart. But to his delightful surprise, don Camillo does receive a touching goodbye from the people of his town – first from his parish at the train station next town, then from Peppone and his party comrades at the very next station afterward. Before Camillo departs for his new destination, Peppone asks him to come back soon and promises that Camillo's successor will not last long under his attention.
This film was produced by Francinex (Paris) and Rizzoli Amato (Rome). It belongs to a long series of Franco-Italian (or Italo-French) coproductions which provided hundreds of movies to the cinema during 30 years after World War II. In Le Petit Monde de don Camillo (released in Italy as simply Don Camillo) one of the characteristics is a certain balance between the two countries, since the original author, the place of action, and one of the two stars are Italian, while the director, the screenwriters, and the first star are French. The crew and the rest of the cast are also equally divided between both nations.
During filming, the actors spoke their own language. So there are two originals, one Italian, and one French, in which the actors of the other language are dubbed. The masterful performance of Fernandel is of course particularly valuable in the French version.
Note however that more often, a bit like in pop music the Lennon-McCartney duet, the Franco-Italian films can be allotted to one or the other country, if we only consider the artistic aspect, cooperation being primarily financial. To satisfy the two parts, they used to incorporate into the casting of a film depending to a country, some actors of the other one. Among a lot of famous examples, we can quote "Il Gattopardo" (English: The Leopard) a typical Italian cult film of Luchino Visconti, co-starring Alain Delon, or "La Cage aux Folles" (US remake: The Birdcage) a typical French cult comedy of Edouard Molinaro co-starring Ugo Tognazzi. Other examples: the Italian "Rocco e i suoi fratelli" (English: Rocco and His Brothers), or the French "Les Aventures de Rabbi Jacob" (English: The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob).
- Riccardo F. Esposito, Don Camillo e Peppone. Cronache cinematografiche dalla Bassa Padana 1951-1965, Le Mani - Microart's, Recco (Gênes, Italie), 2008, ISBN 978-88-8012-455-9