Tag Archives: Francis Veber

The Tall Blonde Man with One Black Shoe (1972)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Following the wrong man.

Bernard Milan (Bernard Blier) and Louise Toulouse (Jean Rochefort) are two rivals within the French Intelligence agency with each looking to unseat the other from their position of power. To counterattack his rival’s ambitions Louise decides to trick the other side into wasting their time by getting them to believe that a man chosen at random is a spy and having them follow him around even though in reality he has no connections to the spy game at all. Violinist Francois (Pierre Richard) gets chosen when he is spotted at the airport wearing only one black shoe. Bernard and his men fall for the bait and follow around Francois wherever he goes and eavesdrop on his conversations like there is some hidden meaning in whatever he says and does, which leads to many amusing results.

The film’s main charm is its satirical jab at governmental bureaucracy and the way they spend so much time and money on wasteful elements that lead nowhere while blithely ignoring the bigger problems. It also playfully taps into the foibles of human nature and how people, once they are convinced of something, will continue to believe it to the point of willfully rejecting or rationalizing evidence that may point elsewhere.

The best bit comes with the overly serious facial expressions that Blier and his subordinates show as they intently listen into Francois’ lovemaking with a woman (Colette Castel).  The slapstick during one of Francois concerts and the side-story dealing with Francois’ friend Maurice (Jean Carmet) who thinks he may be going nuts as he spots the spies at various times when no else does are equally side-splitting.

Pierre Richard, who was not the original choice for the part, is perfect in the lead with his flaming, curly, disheveled hair the perfect look for a man that’s just a bit out-of-touch with world around him. The fact that he continues about his daily life while oblivious to all the spying going on around him makes it even funnier and I liked that despite the character being on the goofy side he still ends up coming off like a real person albeit on the eccentric end.

The script by Francis Veber manages to sustain its comical edge throughout, but like with many of his other plots it borders on stretching its one-joke too thin and seeming more like a collection of gags than an actual plot. The humor is funny enough that it works, but the story still lacks a second or third act and could’ve ended sooner than it does. The film also fails to show the most crucial moment of the story, which is why Francois was wearing one black shoe to begin with. It gets briefly explained later, but this is a scene that should’ve been shown right up front before any of the rest of it got played-out.

In 1985 20th Century Fox did an American remake of this film that starred Tom Hanks and was called The Man with One Red Shoe, which will be reviewed tomorrow.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: December 6, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 30Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Yves Robert

Studio: Gaumont

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube

A Pain in the A__ (1973)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Loser irritates hit man.

Ralf (Lino Ventura) works as a hit man and is hired to assassinate Louis Randoni (Xavier Depraz) who plans to testify against the mob. Ralf checks into a hotel room and plans to shoot Louis as he tries to enter the courthouse from his hotel window, which sits across the street from the court building. As he prepares for the hit he becomes distracted by Francois (Jacques Brel) in the neighboring room who attempts to kill himself after his wife leaves him. Ralf is concerned that Francois’s actions will elicit unwanted attention, so in an attempt to quiet him he ‘befriends’ him, which leads to many ironic scenarios.

The film was written by the prolific Francis Veber and based on his play. Ultimately it’s just a one-joke premise, but what makes it work are the two characters particularly the hit man who is portrayed in a serious way and never once betrays the essence of who he truly is, which is that of a cold blooded killer intent on doing his job and then moving on to his next. The comedy comes from his perturbed reactions at having to deal with a loser that despite his best intentions he can’t seem to ever get rid of.

Famous singer Brel does quite well as the clingy pest who is so wrapped up in his own personal quandaries that he fails to notice that his new ‘friend’ really isn’t his friend at all. Brel’s boyish looks plays well off of Ventura’s constantly stern expression and the plot becomes almost a constant play on errors as each one misreads the other.

The overall set design though is boring and the majority of action takes place solely inside the two hotel rooms, which eventually makes the proceedings quite static. It would’ve been nice to have had more of a conversation between the two as Brel does almost all of the talking while Ventura simply remains quiet while looking bored and angered, which is fun for a while, but more of a character arc could’ve been implemented.

The ending is a cop-out and not satisfying at all. I also felt Ventura was a bit too old and the character would’ve been more intimidating had it played by someone younger and more rugged although for the record Ventura plays the role perfectly especially when he gets injected with a drug that makes him tired and reluctantly  dependent on Brel’s guidance.

In 2008 Veber directed a remake of this film, which met with some success. Also in 1981 director Billy Wilder did an American version of this with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau playing the two leads. That film ended up adding a few changes and will be reviewed tomorrow.

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My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: September 20, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Edouard Molinaro

Studio: Mondex Films

Available: VHS

Coup de tete (1979)

coup de tete

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Soccer player gets revenge.

Francois (Patrick Dewaere) plays soccer (football) for the local amateur team in the French town where he lives. One day, while the rich owner of the team (Jean Bouise) watches, Francois has a physical altercation with the team’s star player Berthier (Patrick Floersheim), which immediately gets the owner and the rest of his teammates to turn on him. Not only does Francois get kicked off the squad, but he loses his factory job too. Francois then gets accused of rape in a crime that was actually committed by Berthier, but the police manipulate the evidence so Francois goes to jail instead. It’s only later when the team bus gets into an accident that Francois is released from prison so he can help them win, which he does, but he also has a very creative plan that he enacts on those who wronged him.

After directing the highly successful Black and White in Color, which won the Academy Award for best foreign film for 1976, director Jean-Jacques Annaud decided to take another stab at social satire. For the most part the film works well and is filled with a lot of intriguing elements. The best part is the way it pokes fun at the fans, who are just regular people that become so obsessed with their team winning that they lose sight of everything else that is important while clinging to the misguided notion that if their team achieves victory then that will somehow make up for all of life’s other transgressions.

Dewaere excels in his usual outsider role and watching him climb up some precarious apartment building walls and at one point even pull his way up a scaffold in his effort to visit his lady friends is entertaining in itself. Dorothee Jemma is attractive as the woman who initially accuses him of rape then retracts it and the side-story dealing with the quirky romance that ensues between them is enjoyable and better than the main one.

However, like with Annaud’s first film, I didn’t find this to be quite as entertaining as all the other critics seemed to. There are certainly some amusing moments and the script by Francis Veber is highly unpredictable, but in the end it doesn’t pack the intended punch. I think the main reason for this is the fact that the townspeople who screw Francois over are just too one-dimensional. They behave like unbridled jerks without ever realizing how hypocritical they really are, which makes their ultimate comeuppance not as satisfying because I could never believe that they were real people and instead just poorly crafted caricatures.

Alternate Title: Hothead (American reissue)

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: February 14, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 29Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud

Studio: Gaumont International

Available: VHS (Dubbed), DVD (Region 2), Blu-ray (Multi-region) (Subtitled)