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As a Funés fan, it's hard for me to pick the best ones, but this would
definitely stand in my top ten! ...or say top fifteen. This time he is the
chef of very exclusive Paris
Choleric as ever, he wants everything to be in the right order or even better. Problems occur when president of one unnamed country gets kidnaped while having a dinner at Septim's. With police and gangsters behind his back he tries to find the missing head of state by himself. And obviously a lot of fun happens during this adventure.
Funés is gorgeous as always, very energetic with funny gesticulation. The plot is simple, but cleverly written with many surprising turnovers. And add in the fabulous scene where DS Citroen falls into Sienna river, continuing its ride as a boat and you get the great entertaining movie of comedy empire of those times! Step in, tastes fresh and makes you laugh after all these years:-)
I love de Funés too, but I can't claim to have seen all of his movies;
(he made like a hundred, right?) I will say that this one is absolutely
De Funés plays Septime, the despotic owner of a high class Paris restaurant, one which entertains the Paris glitterati as well as ministers of the French government. Once a foreign president disappears in the middle of Septime's grand number of lighting fire to a fancy dessert, Septime finds himself in an escalating drama. The police inspector suspects him, a revolutionary group from the missing president's country is after him, and the president's entourage blames him and demands he helps them find the missing head of state. Everyone is looking for the president, and they all ask of a terrified Septime to find him.
The poor Septime travels effortlessly (and lightning fast) between the sheer horror of finding himself in this situation, and the hilarious fits he throws whenever a staff member of his fails to meet perfection. The catch phrase of the movie is an angry kissing sound Septime makes whenever he wants to call an employee's attention to himself, without disturbing the guests, and it never gets tired.
I once heard a rumour that de Funés in person was exactly like the high-strung choleric characters he played, and thusly passed away too soon in a heart attack. I have no idea if this is true, but you do get the sense that he is more or less playing himself, which makes for some very convincing comedy. The man was a comedic genius, and this movie is a superb vehicle for him.
A cult comedy is from my point of view, a movie in which you can't
remember all the funny moments and therefore, you are always happy to
discover them again and again.
So, there, I knew that De Funes was a terrible, tyrannic boss of a great restaurant but his manners eluded me while they are really funny! He's truly the best actor in this field and beyond, a very talented one. As Al (Pacino), I feel that De Funes exudes humanity, compassion and class behind all his jokes
In addition, as it figures among the oldest movies I saw, it was great to see Paris an half-century ago. Besides cars and trends, I feel that Paris was more "green" with trees than actually.
Unfortunately, when the main thing is served, the script becomes strange: a mix between Bond for the aquatic car and the Pink Panther for the winter sequence We are far away of the restaurant!
In conclusion, great appetizers but the menu left me wanting for more!
"Le Grand Restaurant" stars the French comedian Louis de Funès in his
most typical role as Mr. Septime, a tyrannic restaurant manager who's
as ruthless with the subordinates as he's spineless when he meets his
One scene perfectly captures this personality. Septime reproaches a waiter for having put parsley instead of tarragon on the deviled eggs. The poor waiter insists that it was the chef's idea, fine; Septime is ready to confront him. In the kitchen, straightened out by the towering chef, Septime invokes a misunderstanding and swallows his pride without seasoning. "Too much people in this kitchen" says the chef, Septime gets the message and back to his territory where he can impose his commanding presence to the Parisian upper class.
The film picks up to an escalation of gags that demonstrate Funès' extraordinary talent, both on the verbal or the non-verbal department: non-verbal when he uses his trademark kissing sound to discreetly call his waiters, verbal when the Minister can't remember one of his men's title, to which Septime retorts with a dry 'never mind', verbal when he talks about his poor mother, non-verbal when he pretends to laugh at the Minister's joke before he even finished. And these two talents wonderfully converge during one scene of anthology.
The Commissioner of Police (played by the legendary Bernard Blier) politely asks Septime to reveal the secret recipe of his famous potatoes soufflé to his German colleague, Dr. Muller. What follows is hilarious beyond words, and epitomizes why Funès was the greatest French comical actor. After listing the ingredients, Septime start to impersonate some mimics of Adolf Hitler while a subtle game of shadows make him look exactly like the Hitler. This superbly crafted scene culminates with the hilarious "Saltz '(pause) und (pause again) und" then in a loud military voice "Muskat Nuss! Muskat Nuss! Herr Mueller".
If you haven't seen the film, you can find several clips of this scene on Youtube, to have an idea about the summits of hilarity "Le Grand Restaurant" reaches. And the part ends with a perfect punch line when he leaves the fellow officers. At that moment, we're ready to follow Septime anywhere and it goes even funnier when he decides to spy on his own staff. With a ridiculous wig and effeminate manners, he plays the annoying prick with perfection, swinging from a table to another, ordering radishes and yogurt, and from the poor puzzled sommelier a half-dry water (not too dry, or maybe half-soft would be better).
Septime gets finally on the nerves of the poor maître d'hotel (Pierre Tornade) who comes to him and ask him if he wouldn't like a carrot with his radish, before noticing that the hair of his customer has a strange way to move above the head. That he could fool them with the disguise so long was already a subtle gag but that proves how much disbelief we can suspend for the sake of good gags. The disastrous investigation efficiently highlighted the lack of seriousness reigning in the restaurant, whether it's waiters fooling around or a pianist taking the change with a furtive foot, so it was time for Septime to organize a training session.
The training precedes the visit of an important South-American leader; and again it's a showcase of all the talents that shines under Funès' influence, from the boot-licker always referred as "my little Roger", to the sommelier who seemed to have spent quite a good time in the cave. After a how-to-lift-your-plate and never-forget-to-smile lesson, Septime tests their skills with a sumptuous ballet dance, and it's certainly one of the funniest scenes in all French Cinema's history. Carrying their plates, in a total synchronization, following a nice and catchy tune, the men dance and dance very well, making us wondering where this is going.
The music goes crescendo and all of sudden, as if the film was fueled with the right comical energy, it finally implodes into a laugh-out-loud moment of pure zaniness, where all the waiters break their plates, shout several "hey", and engage in a great Cossack dance with Septime in the middle. Right now, I feel the urge to watch this scene again, because no words are enough to describe how hilarious it is. It's so unpredictable and yet so perfect, this is the highlight of the film, and it never goes funnier than that. The last real laughs come with the national anthem played at the President's arrival, a sound that is nothing like the grandiose fanfare Septime briefed his employees, especially the pianist whose fingers will suffer from a several display of Septime's vengeful furor.
Then, the film pursues with the surprise à la Septime, a sort of dessert, imbibed with Grand Marnier, some fire, and boom! it's the explosion and El Presidente mysteriously disappears. Blier takes the leads, and if his interactions with De Funès are never totally unfunny, but something is definitely lost. The whole film could have been set in the restaurant, not without a specific plot line, it would have been hilarious, but the cat-and-mouse thriller it turns into isn't worthy of the hilarious first act I just described. The plot gets so nonsensical it makes you wonder why they put so much effort to make us care for these hilarious waiters if we had to focus on gangster-like figures.
"Le Grand Restaurant" is the perfect illustration of what I call the De Funès syndrome, a film with a hilarious first act and disappointing conclusion. And out of all the Funès movies, it's the most obvious one. I watched it a lot with my father, whenever he says how great it is, I know he'll add "except for the second act", sometimes, we just watch the first act, although De Funès does his best to save the day in the second, but it's a real shame because the first act gives the higher measure of his talent.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
LE GRAND RESTAURANT has two partsthe life in a grand restaurant, with
some gentle satire about a classy Parisian restaurant patron and his
rather undisciplined people, and a thriller spoof, with nice action
sequencessome kind of a funny Hitchcock spoofabout the mysterious
disappearance of a Hispanic president from the Parisian restaurant.
There is a beautiful shot of SaintCloud park. The anthem of the Hispanic country is cool. As with other similar Funès flicks, the pace looks pretty incoherent and lazy, with the rather static long intro of restaurant life, but after-wards it mightily gains strength and takes off in the 2nd part, the Hitchcock spoof (--daddy Funès would beand with what briothe imperiled Hitchcockian innocent, the vanishing of the Hispanic leader is conclusive, Funès has a sexy babe as a sidekick, there are conspirators, snowy landscapes, the conventional suspense--).
LE GRAND RESTAURANT might belong to a top 10 Funès flicks, of course below LA GRANDE VADROUILLE, RABBI JACOB, LES GRANDES VACANCES, LE CORNIAUD, LA ZIZANIE, LA SOUPE AUX CHOUX, LA TRAVERSÉE DE Paris, LE PETIT BAIGNEUR, SUR UN ARBRE PERCHÉ, TAXI, ROULOTTE ET CORRIDAwhich would make LGR an 11th entry, and I didn't include the FANTÔMAS franchise (--already amply reviewed on this very site--) and AH! LES BELLES BACCHANTESarguably not primarily Funès movies.
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