Unsuccessful singing bullfighter Juan arrives in Barcelona to try his luck in a big town. He finally persuades a devious local impresario to book him, but only on the condition that Juan ... See full summary »
Unsuccessful singing bullfighter Juan arrives in Barcelona to try his luck in a big town. He finally persuades a devious local impresario to book him, but only on the condition that Juan first manages to spend an evening with Olimpia, a "shrewd merciless beauty" who seems effortlessly to collect apartments and Maserati sports cars while leaving a trail of broken hearts behind her. Juan approaches the challenge by pretending to her he is an emissary for a rich count. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
"The Bobo" is not a very good movie. It's arguably not even fair, though it has a history behind it. Popular opinion has it that Peter Sellers, the greatest screen comedian of his day, began a lengthy descent from the clouds of his late '50s/early '60s apogee with this silly sex farce co-starring his then-wife, Britt Ekland.
Sure, "The Bobo" isn't brilliant, and clearly suffers from Sellers' Charlie Chaplin complex in that he portrays himself as something of a dupe (a "bobo," as is said in the movie) in upholding the honor of a supremely designing woman. But watching the film today is not unpleasant. It's no great laugh fest, but it is amusing in parts, and Sellers and Ekland have real chemistry. Sellers, just weeks away from death in 1980 and reacting to Ekland's harsh depiction of him in her tell-all auto, "True Brit," called the mother of his youngest child "a professional girlfriend and an amateur actress" and though uncharitable, that dig isn't without merit. It's just that there's more on offer in this one time we got to see the husband and wife paired up romantically on screen.
Sellers plays a singing matador named Juan Bautista, looking for his big break on the streets of picaresque Barcelona. Impresario Carbonell (Adolfo Celi), nursing a deep grudge against the tantalizing, unavailable Olimpia Segura (Ekland) who lives across the street from his favorite watering hole, offers Bautista a brief engagement - if the singer can bed her.
"The Bobo" starts with real promise, taking advantage of its Catalonian setting with an aerial shot of a Christ statue above the city of Barcelona with soaring musical accompaniment that promises much. The film itself starts slowly, with the setting of the bet between Carbonell and Bautista and a demonstration of Olimpia's gold-digging cruelty. Not many actual laughs, which is alright since it's not worth setting expectations you are in for a particularly funny movie when you aren't, but it's a start.
The middle section of "The Bobo" is good, though, at times brilliant. I'm thinking mainly of the flamenco dance in which Bautista, early on in his attempt to scam the lovely Olimpia, surrenders center-stage to one of the most amazing dances ever seen on screen. The dancer looks like Angus Young of AC/DC, but she is all woman, an arresting image of the throes of passion which totally grabs you and holds you by the throat as the camera lingers on her waist, her wrists, and the strands of caramel hair glued to her Angelina Jolie lips while her heels beat like the Four Horses of the Apocalypse. There's also a real funny exit line from Bautista, easily the best laugh in the film.
I'd just be tempted to say hack director Robert Parrish just got lucky there, but he shows more greatness in a sequence at a ritzy retreat where Bautista, improvising like a madman, makes up excuses for a non-existent count who is standing up an annoyed Olimpia. Great '60s ambiance abounds, especially when a fey majordomo played enjoyably by John Wells prances in to explain how everything works.
The film peters out after that, especially near the end when it comes time for Bautista and Carbonell to settle up. Celi was such a great presence in "Thunderball" you sort of know he was capable of more than the script allowed him here.
Other parts of the film are similarly weak. There's a pathetic journalist character played by Kenneth Griffith who is too unctuous and gross to be enjoyed, and Sellers presses the pathos button too much. Ekland's character is so nasty as to make her unlikable most of the time we are watching her, which takes away from the pleasure of her sexy presence more than it should. (Ekland does a good job in her thankless role, though, better than we have any right to expect.) But Barcelona in the later Franco era makes for a very exotic and enjoyable atmosphere, especially when accompanied by a gorgeous score.
Would that Sellers had been a reasonable man, realizing he wasn't best suited as a romantic hero but as a bumbler stealing the audience's heart. "The Bobo" has moments where he plays for laughs, and moments when he just vogues in a matador costume, and it's no trick seeing the difference and which is better. But I enjoy watching "The Bobo," and I suspect that, divorced from any great expectations, you will, too.
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