The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe (1972) Poster

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Hysterically funny French spy farce!
David S. Rose31 August 2002
This film was one of the most successful crossover French films of the 70's, and for very good reason. It is a delightful spoof of the spy genre, with a hapless musician unknowingly caught in the middle of a war between two factions of the French secret service. The plotting is extremely funny, the directing tight, the music (played by Zamphir on the pan pipe!) unforgettable, and above all the ensemble acting by a stellar cast will have you watching this again and again. Pierre Richard, playing the title character, brings an unusual elegance and sense of class to what would otherwise be a Woody Allen-esque role (it was played by Tom Hanks in the American re-make). Mireille Darc is the femme fatale, and there were quite few teenage boys in the 70's who never got over the image of her in a jaw-dropping backless dress. The rest of the group, from the cool head of the Secret Service, to the efficient but misguided spies, to the bumbling best friend and his wife, all leave indelible memories. Thirty years after having seen this film for the first time, I can remember everything with crystal clarity, and my own kids have found it just as delightful. Go ahead and rent this one for truly fun evening, you will love it!
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Perfect Comedy with Great Soundtrack
Galina26 November 2006
This comedy/mystery is simply delightful. You can call it a masterpiece of its genre(s) or you can just enjoy its great timing, hilarious physical comedy, its story that involves spies, murders, and a sexy blonde (Mireille Darc) in a dress you have to see to believe. Pierre Richar is excellent as the blond man of the title who one day became a "person of great interest" for two rival departments in the French secret service. As we know, it is very difficult to find a black cat in a dark room especially if the cat is not in the room and that's what the experienced employees of the secret service try to do - to find the sense in the routine activities of a man they are convinced is an important spy and who is in reality an absent-minded and oblivious violinist and the object of the practical jokes by his fellow musicians.

If it is not enough, there is a soundtrack written by Vladimir Cosma and performed by the King of Pan Flute, a famous Romanian musician Gheorghe Zamfir. Cosma recalls that when he was composing the music for The Tall Blond Man, he was thinking of the movie "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold" and he wanted to use the elements of the Eastern European music. His idea to use the themes of Romanian doinas played by Zamfir was a stroke of genius. Once you hear the melodies, you won't be able to forget them.

YES to the movie and YES!! to the soundtrack
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artzau28 April 2001
This is one of the funniest films I've ever seen. Pierre Richard is HILARIOUS! The script is tight as a mosquito's leotard and the action unrelenting. The story, based in part on a serious of government agencies play SPY vs. SPY games and bureaucratic CYA, arbitrarily pick a fall guy for their foil and who better than a musician hooked on modern music. The amazing thing is Richard's apartment where the walls are covered with pictures of modern composers, dominated by a huge picture of Stravinsky. And, the riotious aside when he tells the girl trying to pump information from him that he has a "secret." When all of the spying evesdroppers stretch their ears to hear, he announces, "Je compose." Is this some new code? They look from one another as Pierre takes his violin and warns, "Mais, elle est moderne," and launches into a chromatic allegro ala Stravinsky. The movie goes on with great slapstick abetted by the marvelous timing of Richard who is rivalled only by Peter Sellars in that means. As the other reviewer noted, there was a decent American version with Tom Hanks, who played the part a lot more low key than Richard. I've seen this movie more than a dozen times and plan to see it again soon. Each time I find some new twist that gives me an extra tickle. Check it out! On s'amuse assez avec ce film-ci!
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Hollywood flattery
bullfrog-51 April 2000
If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then Hollywood has paid homage to this Gallic gem. And, as usual, the original is better than the Hollywood copy.

The best description of this classic is the oxymoron: sophisticated slapstick. But there is much more. Like the category list suggests (comedy, mystery, and more) there's something for everybody, and you needn't be a Francophile to enjoy it.

Simply delightful!
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The excellent brilliant French comedy
drbars20 December 2001
The film is real pleasure, masterpiece in its genre. Dynamic scenario, delightful music and of course excellent actors Pierre Richard, Mireille Darc Jean Carmet, Jean Rochefort acting as a team. Very 'aerial' and sunny film. The film is one of the best and unforgettable films of my childhood and I like it today. 'Grand blond' was a best-seller in Soviet Union and it did not lose its charm now.
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Classic French comedy with brilliant timing
Eric Stein12 February 2006
Pierre Richard at his best. The movie has both verbal and slapstick comedy scenes which are some of his best. Mireille Darc when she turns her back to hapless Pierre. The dead bodies everywhere (including the refrigerator). A great comedy if you can understand the French.

Now finally available in a collected set of DVDs

"Coffret Le Grand blond - 2 DVD Le Grand blond avec une chaussure noire - Le Retour du grand blond De Yves Robert Avec Pierre Richard, Jean Rochefort, Mireille Darc DVD Zone 2 - Pal. 2 volumes"

But for the English speakers - you may have to check out the Web to find some subtitles - product available from in France.
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Interesting commentary on privacy
woodyweaver29 December 2003
An earlier comment was sophisticated slapstick, but while there are the occasional pokes in the eye -- the scene where an exploding cigar goes off and all the spies silenced weapons go "pfffht" (no blood, just lots of people falling over with silly expressions) is wonderful -- I think I'd instead classify this as sophisticated silliness. Reminds me of the old David Niven movies, except much less restrained.

But I also want to point out that the movie ends with a quote: "Every person is entitled to the respect of his or her private life. Penal Code, Article 9." Indeed, the wry tongue in cheek is pointed squarely at the absurdities of the French intelligence community. I find looking at the movie in that light adds another bit of fun to identifying the "good guys" and the bad guys.

Well worth your time.
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ikaros-326 January 2002
Many, many years ago -- the mid-70s, in fact, this movie was on TV in our local area. It was one of the few times I'd seen my dad really excited about a movie, and watched it with him.

It's stuck with me ever since.

This is a brilliant piece of film-making, satisfying as both a comedy and a spy movie. Pierre Richard has a masterful sense of comedic timing, on par with Buster Keaton.

If you get a chance to see this, do.
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so amazing
titof168213 September 2005
first, excuse me for my English bur i didn't write in this language since 2 years. This movie was one of the best i've ever seen. Pierre Richard is the same as usual, with all its "tics" like : - his face with a little smile and look like someone which don't have any idea of what he's making here ! - its clothes are always out of fashion or completely "vintage" Moreover, the french version is more interesting because it's the VO so he "word games" are respected. In fact, all the characters are good in this movie, they all see to be exactly what they seem to be. The men who are supposed to be secret agents are too much : their raincoats and their shoes couldn't have been better than this. then, the music sound is one of the best i know. i can sing this song all the day without any problem.
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The French Comedy Classic with a Catchy Theme…
ElMaruecan8221 May 2012
"Each citizen has a right to privacy" says the ninth article of French code penal. A nice touch from the director, Yves Robert, to remind us at the end of the film that privacy is a luxury that is not necessarily guaranteed just because we live in a democracy, and one might never be too careful that his secrets could be unveiled.

Still, let's suppose now that the government needs to know some secrets. Suppose that the person to spy on can be a threat? Now, suppose that he's thought to be dangerous, but in reality, he's just an average schmuck no better, no worse than the other fellow. That's an interesting basis of comedy, isn't it? Now, why would an average schmuck be spied on? Let's say he's used as a booby-trap to prove one agent's incompetence? Why? Well, imagine an Agent 1 wants to get rid of his second in command? Well, now you have the perfect set-up for one of the most iconic French comedies of errors.

Wait, there's still one piece of the puzzle missing, they still have to pick a random guy in an airport, and chose him as the unfortunate pawn of a deadly chess-game. Who? A tall black man with a green collar? An old man? A young… wait, who's coming here? A tall blond man with a black shoe … in one foot, and a reddish brown in another, it's so peculiar it looks premeditated, it's perfect, and the guy is the master spy, and the perfect booby trap and the most memorable entrance of a character in French cinema.

In French Cinema, there is a fistful of movies whose only mention of their titles is enough to bring back a particular imagery, music, some iconic shots, forever rooted in people's memory. "The Tall Blonde with a Black Shoe" is one of these immediately evocative titles, Pierre Richard's iconic entrance in Orly's escalator, Mireille Darc's black dress with the naughty buttock cleavage (the French equivalent of Marylin Monroe's white dress), the rivalry between two veteran actors: Jean Rochefort and Bernard Blier, respectively #1 and #2 of French Secret Services, Vladimir Cosma's immortal Pan's flute theme played by the no-less legendary George Zhamfir, and so on and so forth. Everything screams 'classic!' and for reasons.

"The Tall Blonde with a Black Shoe" 's particular flavor relies on two comedic ingredients: people taking the most peculiar things with an absolute seriousness, one man totally oblivious to the chaotic situations he creates around him and a goofy screwball thought to be a genius, three premises combined in one film, whose abundance of gags is never tarnished. The center of this oddball universe remains Pierre Richard in the most defining role of his career as François Perrin, the 5'10'' tall man with curly blonde hair and two unsuited shoes, the quintessential funny-looking character.

What is remarkable in Pierre Richard's performance is the way he embodies the natural goofiness of the character and yet remains straight all through the movie, he's either the Auguste clown causing trouble to a bunch of white-faced clowns around him, or he's the straight man of a grotesque masquerade. It's not surprising that the film was co-written by Yves Robert and Francis Veber, the latter would know how to use other actors' talent to highlight Richard's comedic appeal. But here, everyone is so damn serious yet everything seems so crazy and the film's laughs plays in an almost surreal level, as we follow the adventure of François Perrin.

Speaking of Perrin, It's interesting to note that he's the only one with a normal name while all the others are named from cities, to avoid any confusion, the writers took these precautions and exploited him for pure laughs as there are two thugs named Poucet and Chaperon a reference to two fairy tale characters, the film is like a timid parody and oddly enough, it works. In "The Tall Blonde", all the actors play their parts seriously and the laughs don't come from Perrin's weird situations but from the way they're interpreted. It can get a bit repetitive in the first act during which they bug his home, and follow him in his most intimate moments with Paulette, Maurice's wife, and Maurice his best friend played by an irresistible Jean Carmet.

The film takes a brilliant turn during a hilarious symphony sequence featuring the wife, the lover, and the cuckolded husband in the instruments and Yves Robert doing a brilliant cameo as the conductor, the laughs reach their pinnacle with the unforgettable evening at Christine's house. Relying on Richard's comical talent and not without some ad-libs, the film doesn't avoid the use of pure slapstick comedy allowing us to take a break from all this sophistication displayed in the previous scene. And while the film doesn't try to be funny every time, it remains consistent in quality. And of course, even indivisible element of the film, the catchy score of Vladimir Cosma, probably the music that would pave his way to glory.

Asked to make a sort of parody of James Bond themes, Cosma chose to follow his instincts instead of these advices, and dig in his Slavic background to come up with this Soviet-like little tune, not too oriental to be exotic, but catchy enough to be forever associated with the film. While Veber disagreed with the music's choice, Robert kept it, and as it was pointed out in the making-of, the music fitted perfectly the film as it sounded like a sort of Gypsy Dance to Death. I didn't know what it meant, until I remembered the parts where the first shots were fired. I thought it was over the top, but after a second thought, I guess they perfectly captured the spirit of a film that should not be taken too seriously.

And we all know, from the film, the danger of taking stuff 'too seriously'.
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