Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Le Corniaud

1965, France/Italy, directed by Gérard Oury

Although they had been paired onscreen briefly a couple of times before, this was the first occasion on which Louis de Funès and Bourvil shared top billing, and the collaboration was such a success that they were reunited the following year for an even bigger hit, La Grande vadrouille. That title, which roughly means the big trip, could just as easily have been used here, as Le Corniaud takes the two men on a peripatetic journey from Naples across the south of France.

Although Gérard Oury tends to emphasize his actors' less subtle comic stylings -- Bourvil's exasperated sighing with hands flung in the air, De Funès's rubber-faced mugging -- there are more graceful moments, too, particularly near the end when Bourvil soft-shoes away from his pursuers, his gait reminiscent of Jacques Tati. That moment is the more enjoyable because it's where his character finally turns the tables, revealing himself as something more than the titular sucker.

The film looks terrific thanks to Henri Decaë's scope photography -- I love the shot above where de Funès is just about visible in the background, crammed into a small car, while the oblivious Bourvil chatters away to him by means of a radio phone, but Decaë also does nice work with colour in other sections of the film, notably in a campsite sequence with brightly-lit tents. He had quite the career, switching back and forth between nouvelle vague directors and French (and later American) commercial cinema with ease.

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