Drole de Drame DVD
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Directed by Marcel Carne
Produced in 1937
Main Language - French with English subtitles
Michel Simon and Louis Jouvet star in this wonderful Prevert-scripted farce from Marcel Carne, which only makes you wish he had directed more comedies, says David Parkinson.
Prevented by the censors from making a drama about a notorious children's prison in Brittany, director Marcel Carné and screenwriter Jacques Prévert went to the opposite extreme with this gleefully eccentric take on a forgotten novel by J. Storer Clouston. Set in Edwardian London, the picture succeeded in lampooning such British traits as class snobbery, religious pomposity and the need to save face, while also mocking French institutions like the church, the police and the press. Moreover, it brought a touch of satirical (and often surreal) sophistication to the format perfected for the stage by Georges Feydeau. Yet Drôle de drame (aka Bizarre, Bizarre) was dismissed as a misfire on its release in 1937 and has only subsequently come to be recognised as one of the great screen farces.
Respectable botanist Michel Simon leads a double life as the author of the racy crime thrillers that are roundly condemned by his priggish bishop cousin, Louis Jouvet, who invites himself to dine on the very day that Simon's cook resigns and wife Françoise Rosay has to hide herself in the kitchen to maintain standards of bourgeois hospitality. However, Jouvet takes her absence as proof that Simon has murdered her and the couple is forced to flee to a cheap hotel, where they encounter Jean-Louis Barrault, whose passion for animals has been twisted by Simon's books into a psychosis that prompts him to slaughter butchers.
As paths cross, disguises are assumed and the situation grows ever-more convoluted, the action becomes darker and more hilarious. The performances are superb, with Jouvet and Simon particularly relishing one drunken exchange. Even a romantic subplot involving milkman Jean-Pierre Aumont and Simon's secretary Nadine Vogel is utterly charming, while the boorish behaviour of Scotland Yard inspector Pierre Alcover and drunken journalist Henri Guisol adds a broader buffoonery that feels rather Ealing in tone. Eugen Schüfftan's photography, Alexandre Trauner's sets and Maurice Jaubert's score are all equally accomplished. But, most crucially, Prévert's script sizzles with wit and Carné times the manic mayhem with a surety that leaves one lamenting he only attempted comedy twice more in his illustrious career.
David Parkinson on 8th December 2011
Author of 244 reviews
A French farce set in Victorian London, Drole de Drame sees a botanist (Michel Simon) and his wife (Françoise Rosay) get into trouble when they pretend to go missing in order to hide from their sanctimonious cousin (Louis Jouvet) - an Anglican bishop who is leading a campaign against his crime writing.
Dr. Molyneux, the elderly botanist who loves nothing more than his mimosa plants, also secretly authors crime novels under the pen name Felix Chapel - but only because his wife insists they need the money. As it turns out, Molyneux gets the stories from his adopted daughter Eva, who in turn gets them from the milkman, who's madly in love with her. Everything would be fine if it wasn't for Chapel's relative, the Bishop of Bedford, who is crusading against Chapel's 'dangerous' novels. The Bishop is not quite wrong because a man known as the Butcher Killer blames Chapel for his own crimes. Then the bishop invites himself for dinner at Molyneux's house...
Length: 97 mins
Format: DVD B&W
Released: 16th January 2012
Cat No: CONTFILMD1001
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