Tuesday, 29 March 2011

La Grande Vadrouille - The Great Stroll

1966 by Gerard Oury

In the Germany occupied Paris, in 1941, a British plane is shot down. The 3 crew members parachutes down to the city of Paris. Before jumping, they agree to meet at the Trukish Bath. All three of them land at different places and are helped by the local person they meet. Augustin a local painter and Lefort a rich and mean Operah conductor both receive one of the crew and helps them to meet their captain at the Bath. Now they have to help them further to find a way to the unoccupied south of France. There is a German Major and his team who has to find the three crew members who are after them. Movie proceeds through their dangerously interesting and funny journey to the South.

Lefort is played by Louis de Funes and Augustin by Bourvil and they make a great pair. Lefort is a mean rich upper class guy and Bourvil a kind and nice guy from the working class. Lefort has no way but to work together with this working class guy to escape the horrible job he is in, because of bad luck. Both are simply brilliant. The very fist scene of De Funes, when he is conducting a rehearsal in his opera speaks volumes about this amazing actor. He definitely is from a different world.

L G Vadrouille is very different from most classic comedies. There is a serious plot but the treatment and the characters make it a brilliantly funny movie. Till this movie, only ultra serious movies were produced in France with WWII as a theme. And Oury did make a huge jump to another stage with this one, I am sure, surprising the viewers. What better way to funnily look at some happenings during one of the most horrible periods in their history, than to create two contrasting characters like Lefort and Augustine and let them free. And it looks like giving freedom to De Funes is like warning yourself about the laugh riot that you have to follow. This is only my third movie of De Funes. But I am already finding it difficult to find words to praise this actor.

There are soooooo many beautiful and funny moments in this excellent comedy. Like some of the great Malayalam comedies of the 80's, I am sure, I will not be bored of repeatedly watching it.

There is one road scene, on the hills, where German army bikes chase a trek which carries De Funes and others. Brilliant, may I say. I wonder how they managed it in those days.