(International sales: MKL, Paris.) Produced, directed, written by Samy Pavel, based on “Letters From My Windmill” and “La Petite Chose,” by Alphonse Daudet; camera (color, widescreen), Nino Celeste; editor, Isabelle Dedieu; music , Klaus Schulze; sound (Dolby), Suzanne Durand; assistant director, Stanley Mangenot; casting, Juliette Thierree. Reviewed at Club de l’Etoile screening room, Paris, March 24, 1994. Running time: 100 MIN.
With: Jean-Pierre Lorit, Irene Jacob, Louis Lalanne, Robert Ripa, Arnaud Olivari, Christophe Hennes.
“Daudet’s Windmill,” a fetchingly lensed anthology of tales from the fanciful works of 19th-century writer Alphonse Daudet, takes the Classics Illustrated approach to revered literature. Prospects beyond French-speaking territories and classrooms look slim.
Daudet (Jean-Pierre Lorit, looking like a cross between grunge and dandy) scratches the nib of his pen on parchment in extreme close-up, prompting reminiscences and flights of imagination.
At its best, film resembles Pier Paolo Pasolini’s omnibus pix, sans the lascivious edge. Pic’s most lyrical passages are Daudet’s visit to a friend’s elderly grandparents and an extended fantasy about a precocious infant king on his deathbed. Final tale about a priest’s nervous visit to hell is a stagy, kitschy vision of corny devils roasting a man on a spit.
Irene Jacob is a pale, fleeting presence as Daudet’s mother in childhood flashbacks.
Pavel and d.p. Nino Celeste — who worked wonders in 1990’s “The Van Gogh Wake” — obviously relish the opportunity to bring historic tableaux to life. But however lovely the widescreen provincial vistas, too many passages smack of didactic illustration.