Foreign Film Review: Le Bossu – On Guard

In short, it’s a French swashbuckler movie (think Errol Flynn movie without the tights and set in France at the turn of the 18th century).  Being French of course, there’s some nudity and a rather dodgy love story which it gets away with in that way only the French really can.  The film stars Daniel Auteuil as Lagardère. If you haven’t heard of Auteuil, he’s probably France’s greatest living actor.  He can do that trick that only French actors seem to be able to pull off in that he’s incredibly sexy despite lacking those clichéd matinee idol looks (see John-Paul Belmomdo in A Bout de Souffle).

Auteuil is one of those few actors where I’ll buy any film he’s in even if I haven’t seen it/heard about it, simply because he’s in it.  He’s a consummate actor.  I had the good fortune to see him in Paris in a play The Blue Room where he played various characters ranging from an inept virginal student to an oleaginous politician. He inhabited every character brilliantly

The film has all the essential ingredients required for a swash to buckle: a likeable hero, an insidious villain (wonderfully played by Fabrice Luchini), a spunky heroine, lots of great sword fighting sequences, adventure, disguises, injustice put right and most importantly of all the little man (Auteuil) fighting on against the odds and winning.  That’s after all what we all want to see in a swashbuckler – the small guy taking on the big guy and getting the upper hand, presumably because in real life it rarely ever happens.  And deep down we all secretly wish we too had the guts to behave exactly likely that.

Without giving too much of the plot away, the Duke of Nevers (played beautifully by Vincent Perez as a likeable if slightly buffoonish coxcomb) is fiendishly betrayed by his cousin, Gonzague (Luchini).  Lagardère (Auteuil) manages however to rescue the betrayed Duke’s daughter and hide her from Gonzague’s evil clutches promising to exact revenge and restore the daughter to her rightful place in society.

As for the dodgy love story well that would be telling.  It does use the technique that Cary Grant apparently insisted upon when he and Audrey Hepburn were set to romance each other in Charade.  Grant insisted that they portray the younger Audrey chasing him the (much) older man thereby absolving him from any accusations of being a perv.  It’s clearly something one or two current film directors should have thought of doing a few years back….

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