Reliving Impossible Dreams

From Provence, with love, come two idyllic comedies, the most beguiling films since charm went out of fashion

High art, we are taught, resides in the lower depths. Misery breeds profundity, the argument goes, and it has a corollary: anything cheery is a gilded lie. Drizzle is real, sunlight a sham. To focus on the sunny side, and to find resonance there, is to engage in a kind of aesthetic Reaganism. Every smile is a commercial for a product destined to be recalled: Life Lite.

Every once in a while, though, an artist refutes this gloomy view. Here it is two artists: the late French author and filmmaker Marcel Pagnol and the French director Yves Robert, who have collaborated...

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