Picks and Pans Review: The Return of Martin Guerre

updated 08/29/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/29/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

High in the French Pyrénées, in a small farming village, there is rejoicing: Years after deserting his young bride, Martin Guerre, one of the village's sons, has returned to claim his wife and his father's lands. But doubts are soon raised about the identity of the man who says he is Guerre. The matter goes to court—and the courtroom drama, which takes up most of the last half of this movie, is stirring indeed. The opening credits tell us that the story is true, that it happened in 1549, and that director Daniel Vigne used as extras real villagers who live not far from where the events took place. Gérard (The Last Métro) Depardieu, one of France's most versatile actors, plays Guerre with charming loutishness. As his wife, Nathalie (Truffaut's The Green Room) Baye is demurely chaste. The story lags at times, but other sequences more than make up for it, as in one remarkable flashback to the couple's wedding night when the villagers all but dance around the matrimonial bed. As a period piece, the movie is fascinating, with the 16th century re-created against a background lush as a painting. The film has emotional power, too, with sentiment swinging finally to Depardieu, whether or not he is the real Martin Guerre. (In French, with English subtitles) (No rating)

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