Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Wonderfully Odd Shaped Object

Marcel Carné’s “Drôle de drame ou L’étrange adventure du Docteur Molyneax” (1937) is very odd indeed. The great director (“Les enfants du paradis”) directs a script by the great poet and fine screenwriter Jacques Prévert, with some of the best French actors of the time. Michel Simon, Jean-Louis Barrault, Louis Jouvet, and Françoise Rosay play a bunch of daffy Edwardian English people, in a crazed farce set in London, in French!

Hollywood has a long standing convention of portraying stories set in other countries with American actors speaking English. I found it quite amusing to see the French version of this, particularly given the incestuously tangled millennium-long relationship between the French and the English.

It took me a minute or two to get in sync with this convention and with the frantic pace and broad style of the film but then I went with it. It’s strange and very funny and has a black heart filled with fine 1930’s contempt for the Bourgeoisie.

It has a murderer who only kills butchers, an imperturbable Chinese mugger who steals flowers, a singing milkman and a narcoleptic reporter. Louis Jouvet is particularly good as a hypocritical Anglican bishop. His finest moment involves Scottish attire. I will say no more except that the DVD is available on Netflix.

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