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Wild, sarcastic French comedy by the irrepressible
director/writer/actor Jean Yanne about what would happen to Paris and
Parisians if Chinese Maoists invaded France. This rebellious satire --
ideally to be seen on a double bill with Godard's "La Chinoise" --
makes fun of very delicate political matters. There are plenty of
innuendos about French collaborationism during WWII, but then it's
almost always true that any occupying forces in a foreign culture will
eventually engage in corruption and shady businesses, while some of the
invaded natives will always find a way of profiting from the status
quo. The subject is common to every invasion/ domination ever taken
place (including right now you know where).
Wonderful cast, acid script and quick-tempered dialog are highlights in this irregular but imaginative film by Yanne, the man who made fun of Ceasar & Cleopatra on "Deux Heures moins le Quart avant Jésus Christ" (1972), the French Revolution in "Liberté, Égalité, Choucroute" (1975) and French TV industry in "Je te Tiens, Tu Me Tiens par la Barbichette" (1979). There are many memorable scenes; I particularly enjoyed the new "version" of Bizet's Carmen by Chinese opera singers, a riot!!!
In the days before the yoke of political correctness enslaved western Europe and the USA, there were many films calling into question political parties, affairs, régimes etc. This is one of those films, an acid "satirical comedy" on life in Paris under a hypothetical Chinese occupation of that city. In the end, the Chinese are obliged to leave because the French have led them down the sinister paths of over-fornication, over-eating and over-womanizing. The film is above all a satire of the collaboration of the French with the Nazi occupants in Paris during WW2. We see fair-weather friends, the resistance who does an about turn, those who get rich at the expense of everyone else etc, the clergy who turn a blind eye to the occupant etc. Everyone is attacked in this joyous satire. The Chinese make their headquarters in the Galeries Lafayette, an important and beautiful department store, many other buildings are requisitioned. Jacques François is the obsequious "Mediator" on problems between the Chinese and the French. Michel Serrault plays the ugliest rôle of the lot, the worst species of collaborator. Jean Yann who is the main star of the film converts his Notre Dame Sex Shop into a Notre Dame Chop Suey and gets rich at the expense of everyone else. At the time of the liberation of Paris in World War 2, women who had been suspected of "horizontal collaboration", i.e. fornicating with the Nazis, had their heads shaved in public - we see that in this film too. The film is overlong for my tastes and there is a rather soporific Opera spectacle which wasted a good few minutes. Nevertheless it has the merit of having been made and seen by the French public. I happened to be in France in 1974 when the film came out and remember all sorts of protests about it by the Chinese population in France !! It would't be possible to bring out such a film now as it would be attacked as being racist or some other similar rubbish. It has just been issued on DVD here as part of the "Jean Yanne Collection" and the picture quality is so good that you would think it had only been made yesterday.
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