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Foreign Comedy - France - Le Petit Monde de Don Camillo

BUY Le Petit Monde de Don Camillo
Fernandel, Gino Cervi
Directed by Julien Duvivier
French / Italian Production 1951
Lea Films 2005

Le Petit Monde De Don Camillo is the first of a series of five highly successful adaptations of the comic novels by Italian Giovanni Guareschi. This is a charming classic comedy that is finally available on DVD and well worth the rather steep price tag.

French comedian Fernandel plays the reactionary priest of a small Italian village who is always arguing with his best friend and favorite enemy Peppone (Gino Cervi), the communist mayor of the village. Perhaps the real star in this movie is Jesus himself who speaks to Don Camillo and guides the rather temperamental and hotheaded priest.

Theirs is a love hate relationship. They are old friends, served in the maquis together during World War II and yet are not above the frequent fistfight to settle their differences. Le Petit Monde de Don Camillo begins with the election of Peppone and an all-communist village council. When Peppone wants to give his first speech as mayor, Don Camillo makes every bell of his church ring so as to bury him. Of course, the villagers have selected sides long ago. The poor are with Peppone, the richer landowners back the village priest, officially that is. In reality, everybody in the village looks out for the others and is behind both the mayor and the priest with hilarious consequences

The first movie in the series is built as funny episodes. There is a Romeo and Juliet story involving two of the village's youths, a fight about the funding for a people's house that Don Camillo settles by brandishing a machine gun and extorting his share of hidden war booty, a soccer game that goes very badly for the referee, a worker's strike, and the intervention of the Monsignor when things get too out of hand.

The comedy comes not only from the humorous situations but also from the great comedic talents of legendary French actor Fernandel (La Vache Et Le Prisonnier) and just as legendary Italian star Gino Cervi. Any movie that can get away with using the voice of Jesus Christ himself and make it part of the tragicomic daily life of this village priest is definitely worth watching.

The print quality of this restored black and white comedy is acceptable. Definitely not pristine but better than average. Extras are limited to very grainy trailers for the five movies in the Don Camillo series.

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