A Genius of French Cinema Delivers a Career-Defining Performance

Inside Criterion / Sneak Peeks — Jul 22, 2019


As the Provençal baker at the heart of Marcel Pagnol’s wise, warm 1938 comedy The Baker’s Wife, French star Raimu moves effortlessly between comic exaggeration and touching subtlety, creating a protagonist as lovably dignified as he is incorrigibly flawed. The character—who becomes too distraught to fire up the oven after his wife leaves him, causing a stir in his village—came to define the great actor’s career, and on our new edition of The Baker’s Wife, the indelible performance certainly gets its due. In the above clip, taken from a selected-scene audio commentary included on our release, Pagnol scholar Brett Bowles examines a moment that displays the full range of Raimu’s genius. Bowles notes how the pathos-filled scene in question—in which the baker tries, but fails, to start a new batch of bread through the haze of his grief—marks a departure from Raimu’s irascible outbursts in Pagnol’s earlier Marseille Trilogy, and finds the actor channeling the collective despair of French cinema’s largely working-class audience, which was enduring a number of painful political setbacks at the time of the film’s release. For Orson Welles’s reaction to the movie—and its lead actor—upon its 1940 stateside premiere, stay tuned to the end of the video.