Catherine, an out-spoken Parisian laundress follows Napoleon's army to the battlefront to be near her Sergeant Lefevre. The couple perform a deed of heroism which abets Napoleon's victory, ...
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Catherine, an out-spoken Parisian laundress follows Napoleon's army to the battlefront to be near her Sergeant Lefevre. The couple perform a deed of heroism which abets Napoleon's victory, so that after the war the grateful Emperor bestows on the now married couple the title of Duke and Duchess. Catherine squabbles with Napoleon's haughty sisters, scandalizes the nobility with her lack of courtly manners, flirts with the men - and consistently creates havoc as she remains true to her earthy background. Written by
Italian censorship visa # 36239 delivered on 9-12-1961. See more »
When the French revolutionary soldiers march against the Austrian camp, before Lefebvre sabotages the Austrian artillery, a large column of black smoke could be seen already, in the far distance. See more »
I haven't read the original play nor have I seen previous adaptations, so I can make no comparisons. But I can tell you, regardless of other versions, that this is a thoroughly enjoyable film with great acting, magnificent sets, witty dialogue and an unusual theme.
First let's talk about the unusual theme. This film is much like the celebrated stories of Guy de Maupassant, using an epic situation as a backdrop and instead telling a very common, human (and humorous) story. In this way, it reduces the epic backdrop to the absurd whilst focusing instead on the importance of individuals in their not-so-epic lives. In other words, this is anti-history. I know I didn't explain that very well, so I'll give you an example instead: Sergio Leone's "The Good, the Bad & the Ugly" is a perfect illustration, set against the American Civil War yet trivializing the war and instead focusing on 3 gunslingers fighting their own private war. Comedy, wit & irony are key in telling an ironic story like this, and "Madame Sans-Gêne" (as well as "The Good, the Bad & the Ugly") pulls it off brilliantly, largely due to the larger-than-life presence of Sophia Loren in the role of Catherine Sans-Gêne.
There's a line early in the film where the revolutionaries are storming the Tuileries Palace, and they pass by Catherine's laundry shop asking her if she'll come along. She laughs and replies, "No thanks, I already stormed the Bastille last week!" and continues with her laundry. This is the kind of Maupassantian humour I described above, and the film is full of it.
Robert Hossein delivers a marvelous performance as Catherine's husband, the handsome yet awkward provincial (a miller's son) who gets swept up in the epic and gets promoted to royalty. I've only seen Hossein in his heroic, swashbuckling roles, so it was a real treat to see him playing the role of a maladroit oaf for once. His goofy expressions, clumsy gait and general goofiness had me in stitches every time. If you're not familiar with Robert Hossein, try to imagine someone like maybe Christopher Walken playing the part of a nerd. That's the comedy I'm talking about.
I give another thumbs up to Julien Bertheau who plays the "little General" himself, Napoleon. His character is a real douchebag, but you love him for it, and you may even gain an appreciation for the infamous egomaniac who was thrust into one of the most absurd situations in history (leading a nation that had just overthrown its monarchy yet was all too eager to re-create the same monarchy, only with different faces).
I don't think you need to be a student of French history to appreciate this film. It tells a timeless story of the silliness of government, revolution, war, corruption & back to government ...and the loud-mouthed laundress who didn't seem to be affected by any of it. Watch it & enjoy!
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