The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe Collection

Starring: Jean Rochefort, Bernard Blier, Mireille Darc and Pierre Richard
Arrow Films
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: PG
Available 23 April 2007

Francois is a mild mannered classical violinist who is just about to have his life turned upside down. Not that Francois has done anything wrong; however he does have friends who have a penchant for practical jokes; so, when one of them nails his shoes to the floor he turns up at the airport wearing one brown shoe and one black. This in itself is not a problem until France's security forces take this sign to mean that Francois is an international spy. As they trail the oblivious young man around Paris they are impressed how he is able to blend into the background. Misinterpreting his every ordinary action as magnificent duplicity, they finally set a femme fatal on him to discover secrets that Francois just does not have...

The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe (Le Grand blond Avec Une Chaussure Noire - 1972) is a comedy directed by Yves Robert, a distinguished writer, actor and producer since the early fifties, and written by Yves Robert and Francis Veber. Veber is well known for his work on La Cage aux Folles (1978), which was remade as The Birdcage (1998) with Robin Williams and Gene Hackman, and Mon Pere, Ce Heros (1991) which started Gerard Depardieu and which was subsequently remade as My Father the Hero (1994) with Depardieu, again, in the leading role. The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe won a Silver Berlin Bear Award for Yves Roberts as well as a Golden Screen Award.

In fact if you were to list all the films that this duo have had turned into so-so American versions you'd be surprised just how many you have actually seem. In fact Le Grand Blond avec une Chaussure was remade as The Man with One Red Shoe (1985), which starred Tom Hanks, though to be honest; director Stan Dragoti made such a hash of it that I don't think anyone came away from the project happy. It's a case of why try to fix something if it's not broken.

And therein lays the problem. Why bother to watch the second hand versions of excellent European films that have been sanitised and rehashed by the Hollywood system when here you have the rather excellent original?

So what's so great about a plot which sounds like a remake of The Intelligence Men (1965), well there's a great script, excellent comic timing from the cast and a nice light touch from the director.

Pierre Richard as Francois Perrin, the object of the spy's interest, is perfect for the role. Tall, with a dishevelled mane of hair, he goes about his day becoming more and more bemused at the events happening around him. Beautiful women throw themselves at him, bodies are dumped in his apartment and worst of all his affair with his best friends wife is accidentally broadcast out the back of a van, leading his friend to conclude that his wife is having an affair with a florist in the back of a van.

The films success spawned a sequel, which is also included in the collection, a sequel that, if anything, is funnier than the original.

Francois, having got the girl in the previous film - the beautiful Christine - is once again embroiled in interdepartmental plot, however this time he is less than happy to play the part of the hapless pawn and sets some of his own plans into action.

The Return of the Tall Blond Man (Le Retour du Grand Blond - 1974) features the same writers, director and the vast bulk of the cast in another outing with the man with one black shoe. Although similar to the first movie the increase in physical humour raises it just above the first film.

These will certainly not be two of the deepest film you have ever saw, but they might just be some of the funniest, certainly up their with Blake Edwards' Pink Panther films.

Audio is French stereo with optional subtitles and the print is good if not pristine. Extras are none existent.

Overall these are two great comedy films by two masters of the art. As with a lot of subtitled films there are a few niggles about the translation being sanitised, but other than that this is a great package. Shame about the extras though.

Charles Packer

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