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The Comte de Gonzague schemes against his cousin, the Duc de Nevers, even though he is the Duke's heir and will inherit his estates. The Count has kept secret the existence of the Duke's bastard, recently born. When the Duke learns of his child, he journeys to wed the mother, a baron's daughter, in her father's isolated chateau. The occupants of the castle are surprised and murdered by the Count and his men. The only ones to escape are the Duke's friend, the skilled swordsman Lagardère, and the infant, a girl, now the rightful heiress to the Duke's vast fortune. The Count believes the pair to have drowned, when in fact they have been concealed by a travelling troupe of Italian players. Twenty years pass. The Count has discovered that the two survive and seeks to have them slain. But Lagardère gains the confidence of the Count, and employment as his bookkeeper, through his clever disguise as a hunch-back... Written by
France, 1699. The Duc of Nevers is a dashing nobleman who's cousin wishes him gone in order to inherit his fortune. His cousin, Count Gonzague pays hired swords to kill Nevers but they fail to do so, one of the men winning over the Duc and becoming his friend. When Nevers learns he has a child from an one night stand in Caylus, he sets off with Langardère to be married. However the marriage occurs but men attack the castle and Langardère is left to flee and protect the baby. He joins a group of players and hides for 20 years. However when the baby (now grown up as the beautiful Aurore) kills a man in the style known only to her father, Nevers, her presence is revealed and Langardère is forced to put things in motion for his revenge.
I have had this film sitting on a video tape for a month waiting for me to get some time to watch it. I am always put off by foreign films and often they will go to the bottom of things I have to watch simply due to the subtitles! I saw this today and thoroughly enjoyed it. The plot is quite simple although it sounds quite complex. The two acts are I, Langardère and Nevers becoming friends before the deeds and II, Langardère returning to Paris 20 years later. The plot is helped to move along by the energetic playful feel to the film. It has it's tongue slightly in it's cheek but not so much as to make a mockery of the story. Instead it has just enough wit to stop it feeling historic or creaky.
It is not without flaws however, but they are minor when viewed alongside the grand sweep of the film. I, for one, didn't totally get behind the switch in the type of love between Langardère and Aurore it was too easy after 20 years. Aside from this, the wit enables the film to get by with unlikely plot devices if the subject had been presented drier then I may have had a problem with it.
The cast is led by some great performances, none more so than Auteuil. He is good both as the angry young man who befriends Nevers, the comical hero, the protective heroic father and the hunchback of the title. He has great fun in all roles and he is fun to watch. Perez is a bit of a cad and is enjoyable while onscreen and Luchini is a good villain made comical by his almost `middle manager' sense of insecurity and being second best all the time! Gillain as the adult Aurore is pretty and it is only her romance of Langardère that didn't work for me.
Overall this is a very enjoyable film. The plot is very traditional and well worn, but the film is really helped by it's energy and wit that helps everything flow that much easier and makes, along with good performances, for a very fun film to watch.
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