Tag Archives: Lino Ventura

A Pain in the A__ (1973)


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.


My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: September 20, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Edouard Molinaro

Studio: Mondex Films

Available: VHS

Happy New Year (1973)

happy new year

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: A robbery with romance.

Stylish, moody, charming, serene, glossy, and evocative are just a few of the words that come to mind when you view this film and that’s just after the first five minutes. This is truly a French picture. It has all the ingredients that lovers of that cinema enjoy. Unlike American films, French films take their time in telling their story and everything is leisurely paced. The viewer is actually allowed to soak in the visual experience without being told what to think. Director Claude Lelouch is a master at work. He wisely realizes that film viewing is a very personal experience. What the viewer will take from that experience is unique only to them. Thus you have a picture that stays rather wide open in regards to structure. The camera takes many wide shots, thus allowing the individual viewer to focus on whatever it is that intrigues them personally. The story, while still being focused, stays elusive and subtle throughout.

To say the plot is about a planned jewelry store heist is misleading since this only takes up a part of the movie. There is also a running mix of character study, romance, comedy, satire, and even drama. Some will enjoy the amusing banter and love-hate relationship of the two male leads. Others will like the blossoming romance between one of the crooks and a beautiful antique shop owner. Still others will like the wide array of conversational topics some of which include: unique observations on marriage, hairstyles, churchgoers, psychology, men’s definition of women, and women’s definition of men. There’s even a playful critique of an earlier Lelouch film A Man and a Woman.

Overall it’s perfectly made for the viewer with distinct tastes even though when you get right down to it, it really is just a piece of entertainment fluff made more intriguing because of its sophisticated approach. Like with its Wizard of Oz-like format where the beginning and end are in black and white while the middle is in color. Why do it this way? No reason, except, why not. Same with the long slow shots of actor Lino Ventura’s very lined and expressionless face, which manages to hold an unexplainable captivation.

The rather abrupt and elusive ending seems to be the film’s only real weak point and yet when taken into context with everything else, this too has its allure. An American version of this movie was made in 1987 under the same title and starring Peter Falk, but that version is far inferior to this one and not worth seeking out.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: April 13, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 30Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Claude Lelouch

Studio: Les Films 13

Available: DVD (Region 2)