Vincent Perez could almost make me jealous! Such youthful energy, such panache ... all I have in common with the man is that I do nearly all my own stunts.
Yup, it was 'Fanfan la Tulipe' (lively and noisy Flash site in French) we saw on Wednesday. It's a swashbuckler in the grand tradition with plenty of swordplay, chases and villainy, clearly thoroughly enjoyed by a largely fine cast. Once you've got used to Penélope Cruz laying on a Spanish accent denser than the royal headware.
Set vaguely in the reign of a Louis XV (Didier Bourbon) who needs regular reminders of which battle his army is fighting and why it began in the first place, 'Fanfan' bears a passing resemblance to a 'Barry Lyndon' without the length, the seriousness or the sad decline in our hero's fortunes.
Director Gérard Krawcsyk whips the adventure along at a spectacular pace, to a soundtrack which would well befit a Western, apart from a running gag involving a fop of a regimental commander (Guillaume Gallienne) and an unfortunate little band of military musicians.
A characteristically French delight in absurdity and anachronistic winks lend little touches to the fun. One aspect of the unmasking of the villain (scarcely a spoiler for such a predictable development) inspires the King to remark that it's about time for a single European currency. Elsewhere, we learn that we're caught up in the Seven Years' War (1756-63) - which means, the army decides, with four years already fought, there's only three more to come.
If the film has any weighty points to make at all, it's on the utter indifference of court and general alike to the lot of the ordinary trooper. Louis prefers convenient times to watch the mayhem from a safe distance, with about the decisiveness he brings to choosing his eggs, or not, for supper.
Luc Besson, who has his own corner of the Net, is right up there in the writing credits, but I'd suspect that the bulk of an entertaining script which takes considerable historical liberties is largely the work of Jean Cosmos.
However, Besson's very name will certainly pull in the public in France, I hope, and even beyond. When I saw that TF1, the most populist pap chain of French TV, partly funded the movie, my heart sank, but they do occasionally put the cash where it should go, rather than dispensing handfuls of loot to would-be millionaire game-show participants.
'Fanfan' - find out for yourselves of the exploit that earned him "la tulipe" if you don't know the story already - is not a great film and has no pretensions. But it's a most diverting big screen adventure, sumptuously costumed and set, with some twists in the plot you may even not guess in advance, and a sprinkling of wit.
An easy 6/10 for the fun of it.
(The pix are by Olivier Gachen and Etienne George for EuropaCorp Distribution. I didn't pinch Penélope or Vincent because they're all over the place anyway.)
7:06:11 PM link