Posted on 7/21/09 12:00 AM
Lâ??Emmerdeur (A Pain in the Ass)
A pain in the ass
The Alliance FranĂ§aise French Film Festival, now in its 20th year, did the Sydney circuit this March, displaying some outstanding contemporary cinematic exports from France. One of the highlights in the comedy genre was that of Francis Veberâ??s latest film adaptation of his successful play, Lâ??Emmerdeur (â??A Pain in the Assâ??).
Richard Berry plays Ralf Milan, a solemn character, who is hired to assassinate a crime mogul set to testify against the mob. Milan sets up fort in his hotel room, with a view out his window to the courthouse, in preparation for what he expects to be a trouble-free and typical sniper mission. Staying in the adjoining room to Milan is the neurotic FranĂ§ois Pignon, played by comedian Patrick Timsit. Pignonâ??s wife (Virginie Ledoyen) has grown bored of FranĂ§ois and has left him for her psychiatrist, the cold and calculating Dr. Wolfe, played by Pascal Elbe.
When a failed suicide attempt by Pignon, goes hilariously wrong, Milan is faced with an unforeseen calamity. Unable to let the nervous and aloof hotel attendant (Laurent Paolini) call the authorities in fear of being noticed by the police, Milan has no choice but to pretend to be on suicide watch over the pathetic and ultimately persuasive Pignon. This unlikely friendship of the two men leads to an unfolding of hilariously random accidents, reminiscent of the goofball, accident-prone humour of another film by Francis Veber, La ChĂ¨vre (1981) closely followed by Pure Luck (1999).
Amongst the brink of Australiaâ??s economic crisis, it takes a quirky slapstick comedy of errors like this, to act as a successful distraction from everyday life. It is the type of film that is able to keep most adult audiences amused and enamoured by the constant flippant and mischievous scenarios. Whilst some viewers may find the humour slightly crass and predictable, it is hard not to go along with it, thanks in part to Richard Berryâ??s dynamic portrayal of Ralf Milan. Patrick Timsitâ??s depiction of FranĂ§ois Pignon is also effective, as you really begin to despise his ugly selfish and meddlesome qualities. Unfortunately the most likable character of the film, Randoni, the ex-criminal played by Michel Aumont, is not given due time onscreen. Instead, we have to observe an over abundance of screen time of Pignonâ??s wife, who is portrayed at times in an unbelievable sense as the woman who left her husband for a richer more attractive man, whom lets her ride horses all day.
I had not seen the 1973 film version of Lâ??Emmerdeur, nor had I seen the American adaptation titled Buddy BuddyI (1981), so I cannot comment on any improvements or changes that may have been made in this latest version. However, Lâ??Emmerdeur does strike me as the type of comical tale that is inherently capable of being recycled and regenerated in any decade, whilst still managing to maintain comic resonance with its newer and more diversified audiences. This is due in large part to Francis Veberâ??s almost psychic ability to produce crowd-pleasing comedy of the utmost wit and quality. Some of his other hits include, The Valet (2006), The Closet (2001), and The Dinner Game (1998).
From the cheeky happenings in the police security van subplot, to the frustratingly hilarious circumstantial incidents inside the hotel room, Lâ??Emmerdeur takes its audience on a ride that is equally thrilling and comical, that it is sure to have even the most critical of slapstick, chuckling along to this fast paced, quirky and charming film.
Starring Richard Berry (Tais-toi!, The Valet); stand-up comedian Patrick Timsit; Michel Aumont (The Valet, The Closet) Virginie Ledoyen (8 Women, The Beach, Shall We Kiss) & Pascal Elbe
Directed by Francis Veber (The Valet, The Closet, The Dinner Game)
Country of Origin: France
Running Time: 86 min