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Pure French Comedy gold ... that won't leave you cold ...
"Look Bernard... I think you and I have the same problem: the point is that we cannot really rely on our looks, especially you. So let me give you a piece of advice: forget you don't stand a chance, and just go for it! Who knows, it might work out of a misunderstanding!" These are the true words of wisdom spoken to his friend Bernard by no one but France's most endearing cinematic loser: Michel Blanc aka Jean-Claude Dus. And the 'misunderstanding' part immediately penetrated French culture as the inspirationally desperate encouragement for perseverance.
The line I just quoted is my favorite from the "Les Bronzés Font du Ski" not just because of the absurd yet relevant message but for the priceless way it's delivered with the "especially you" as the icing on the cake. Gérard Jugnot as Bernard Morin might not be the handsomest of the bunch, but that these words come from Michel Blanc, who's not exactly Alain Delon, turns an already funny quote into a genius piece of verbal hilarity.
I deliberately started with this brief analysis because it's the one that speaks the very essential truth about "Les Bronzés Font du Ski": when it's funny, it is very funny, even funnier than the first opus of our dear vacationers' adventures "Les Bronzés".
Indeed, more than a sequel, the 'ski lodge' version of "Les Bronzés" is a second and much better installment of the series involving Bernard, Jean-Claude, Nathalie, Jérome, Gigi, Popeye and co. They're all here, playing the same characters but this time, the directing is less hazardous than the previous film, the Val d'Isère Mountains provide a breath-taking cinematography with its dazzling white landscape under a sunny blue sky, and the script an additional level of depth on the characters without killing off the charm of their obvious weaknesses or flaws. In one of the opening scenes, when Bernard and Nathalie make their entrance in their chalet's room, they protest against the occupants who put a banal painting in the wall "that belongs to everybody". Later, we see Nathalie hanging a ridiculous clown portrait that makes the whole rant hilariously absurd, postponing its comedic effect.
What is so great about "Les Bronzés Font du Ski" is that every single scene stands alone as a great piece of comedy, which makes any attempt to list the funniest scenes ludicrous. Each scene is either funny or works as the set-up of an even funnier moment, and each character has a moment to shine, provided we knew them from the first opus. Although I believe it's a far better film than the first, the viewing of the latter is essential, if not indispensable.
And even the very supporting characters create memorable moments. During a dinner, Christiane, Domique Lavanant as the insecure old maid, brings her new friend for dinner. The age of the man (who could be her father) is a gag in itself but the way Maurice Chevrit steals the show during that dinner is indescribable. He makes a speech about celebrities who wore toupees with a level of believability and seriousness that I can see appealing to English or sophisticated audiences. The summit of Pythonesque absurdity is reached when he raises his glasses complimenting the wine's taste, totally forgetting that it was the wine he brought himself and what's more, didn't want to share with the others. And God, this is only the starters; the film works on every level of comedy, from slapstick to subtle humor, which makes it among the greatest comedies ever.
And despite the episodic feeling, the little subplots doesn't feel as disjointed as in the second, a tribute to Patrice Leconte who applies his touch on the film and doesn't take for granted the popularity of the characters and the cleverness of the script. The film is still loyal to the spirit of the first one, carried by the central performance of Michel Blanc as Jean-Claude Dus, with his immortal catchphrase "I can't feel that tonight, I'll conclude" which means that he'll "make it with the girl". His desperate attempts to conclude are the running gag of the series that never gets old and inspires some of the funniest moments of the film. The one where he's stuck in the chair lift, in the middle of a night and another more subtle one, when he struggles to seduce a pretty Italian with Popeye. Both lamentably fail and when an enraged Dus asks Popeye "I don't know what prevents me from knocking you" Popeye's answer is funny: "I don't know. Fear, maybe?" but Dus' approval is hysterical.
Still, despite Dus' series of failure, sex is less an issue than in the first film, and the last act features a conventional trip where they'll naturally end up lost, but never does the inspiration desert the film and no part feels too long or too short. The 'Splendid Troop' is still holding very high the flag of humor and the story progresses until a final apotheosis in the highlanders' chalet and a dinner that couldn't have been more unappetizing. The final toast is one of the most classic moments of French Cinema and I still wonder how many takes they had to shoot without bursting out of laughs.
Everything holds up together from beginning to end, alas, the same can't be said about the dreadful and uninspired third opus made 27 years later. But to conclude on a positive note, I want to mention another element on which the film's popularity relies: the extremely catchy piece of pop-music from the late Pierre Bachelet. And as you know, when the music, the writing, the acting, the directing and the cinematography are all at the top of their game, the popularity of a film is hardly debatable.
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