After watching Michel Deville's "Death In A French Garden" and liking it quite a bit, I had high hopes for "Le Paltoquet", a film which he wrote and directed just one year later, with an even more distinguished cast of past and future French film stars. To say that I was let down would be an understatement; this film is pretty damn awful! "Death In A French Garden" was playful in a good way; this one is also playful (at one point Piccoli's character "freezes" the action - why? how?), but also frightfully pretentious. It's heavily stylized (95% of the action takes place inside an underlit "bar" that is obviously meant to be a theatrical stage with a limited amount of props, the characters have "symbolic" names - Professor, Doctor, Inspector, etc.) and loaded with puns and wordplay that will mean very little to any viewer who does not understand French. But even those puns that do get across ("I'm embarrassing you....I'm embracing you") are not particularly funny. Oh yes, there is a murder mystery in there somewhere, but the film treats it all as a big joke - the solution and motivation behind it are beyond pointless. Some people say that an ambitious failure is preferable to a safe success, but watching "Le Paltoquet" makes it easy to argue otherwise! * out of 4.
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