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Un Crime au Paradis tells the story of a fairly dimwitted farmer Jojo, and
his nasty and ruthless wife Lulu, who live in complete animosity together on
a farm, very ironically named "le Paradis", or "Paradise". They spend their
days essentially irritating the other as much as possible, and reciprocating
for the misery they've injected into each other's lives. This all comes to a
head when Jojo sees on TV a lawyer who is famous for getting
crime-of-passion killers acquitted since, as he says "Anyone can kill out of
passion or anger".
The process by which Jojo plans the murder of his wife with the un-knowing help of this lawyer in order to get away with it is where this film gets its humour. It really is genuinely funny watching the passionate and devious lawyer get all worked up getting the story of Lulu's murder straight with Jojo, without even realising that the murder hasn't yet been committed. André Dussollier and Jacques Villeret do marvellous work in these two roles, and they back up the over-the-top script with similarly comical performances.
The film is obviously lacking in realism, but the script and the actors never take themselves too seriously; the countless jokes about the unattractiveness of Lulu is testament to this. And while the film is entertaining for the most part, it lags a bit towards the end, suffering from its lack of ingenuity in the basic storyline. It's fairly well executed in order to provide humour, but it's really nothing more than simple French escapism, and the story and pace of the film are nothing to get overly excited about.
That said, I could well recommend this film. Despite the drab setting and similarly drab budget, I'd say this is a very accessible film to a fairly wide audience, and definitely worth a look for a quick laugh. ***1/2 / *****
It's a french film, located in the french countryside, with that unique french feeling that stays right between drama and humor: one hour and a half that run like fresh water. Not a chef-d'oeuvre, but really pleasant. One thing to appreciate is that characters are as natural as it is in everyday life, and the plot seems to come out of a province's newspaper as well. 7 out of 10.
I liked this film, which doesn't take itself as seriously as many contemporary French films do. It may never reach the USA - too bad. The humor is reminiscent of Bill Forsyth, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam et al with a setting in dreary but beautiful French countryside instead of Scotland. A year after seeing it, many little comic details flash back...the coroner accidentally swilling the mole-killer ("taupicide") laced glass of wine by accident...the vicious wife ambling across the street threatening motorists with her umbrella...the shrewish pharmacist being convinced to sell the poison...the nasty tempered goat farmer muttering "la salope!" under his breath as milk runs out the bottom of his punctured bucket...the farmer and schoolteacher walking around oblivious to the April Fool's fish taped to their backs...
This film was a pleasant surprise from present day French Cinema which seems incapable of making good comedy films such as it made in the sixties and seventies. Apart from one or two exceptions one has to rely on Hollywood to produce films to make us laugh. Anyway this film is quite unusual. The title means quite simply a crime comitted at a farm called "Le Paradis" in a remote region of France near to Lyon during the late seventies. The film was inspired by another film from the forties called "Le Poison" by famous director Sacha Guitry. Whereas that film sought to satirize the French Legal System of the time, Un Crime au Paradis is more of a black farce. A husband is more than henpecked by his wife, he is "mashed up", i.e. she hates him more than you can imagine and will do anything to get at him. All this happens in a peasant environment where people do not divorce and just put up with it however they can. Each one wants the death of the other, and eventually the husband after seeing a lawyer who wins all his cases on TV goes to see the lawyer claiming to have killed his wife and to see what his chances are of getting away with it. On the other hand the wife has gone to purchase some mole-killer to do away with her husband and she fantasises on the massages dealt out to her by a doctor. Anyway one of them is killed and the film is about the ensuing trial. The actors Jacques VILLERET, Josiane BALASKO, ANdré Dussolier are all good and well known actors from today and give splendid performances. We also se comedian Roland MAGDANE with a small part as a café owner and Valérie MAIRESSE as his wife. Lastly we have dear Suzanne FLON as the retired schoolmistress with hear beautiful mellow voice who gives kindly advice to the husband. The best performer is Balasko as the nagging wife..........she is just AWFUL !!!!! You just want to take her by the throat and strangle her !!! I am not sure whether the film is known outside France, but if it is shown elsewhere it is sure to have success, not because it is a great work of art but because it is above all entertaining and shows life in "La France Profonde" (Deepest France ). It has probably been under-estimated by the French Public and may have more success outside France than inside. The humour is slightly black but should appeal to Anglo-saxon audiences more than to Latin ones. Anyway get to see it if you can. You certainly won't be bored !
If you want to have a look at life in the French countryside in the seventies, this movie is for you. It's a good illustration of this forgotten world during which everything looked so naive and pain. The film is a remake of a French movie classic. It looks anachronistic compared to sophisticated French movies such as "Le pacte des loups". Its subject, its cast (most of the actors comes back from the seventies and the eighties...), its music by Pierre Bachelet, its direction... Everything looks out of time. It may be pleasant, but at the same time a useless effort to revive a movie genre which belongs to the past and which was so well made at the time. Funny, but useless.
If you know Sacha Guitry's immortal "Le Poison", this movie may seem a
little disconcerting to you. It is a fairly faithful retelling of
Guitry's astonishingly cynical story, but with many of the sharp
corners rounded. Not a betrayal of the original, but a different,
typically Jean Becker, way of telling the same story. The wife is far
more developed as a character, and we are given reasons to feel sorry
for her on occasion. Josiane Balasko, who plays the part, is also a
first-rate actress. Braconnier, played by the equally gifted actor
Jacques Villeret, is not as aggressive as Michel Simon's character; he
borders on the timid. Humanity as Jean Becker sees it, in other words,
and not how Sacha Guitry saw it.
If you don't know Guitry's film, you can enjoy this for what it is, a funny and yet warm comedy. If you do know Guitry's film, the écart between the two will bring out nicely what was typical of/unique to Guitry.
A strong recommendation for both movies.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In 1951, Sacha Guitry wrote and directed "La Poison" (oddly, he didn't
star in the film). I have never seen the film but noticed that Amazon
is selling the Blu-Ray version--which I'll have to buy. Why? Because I
enjoyed the remake, "A Crime in Paradise", so much--I'd really like to
be able to compare it to the original.
As for "A Crime in Paradise", this film isn't exactly a comedy--though it has a dark, slightly comic tone. In many ways it's reminiscent of the wonderful Charles Laughton film, "The Suspect", as both films are about very nice men who have wives who are Satan!! In both cases, the viewer is in the odd position of WANTING to see her killed--and in a cute twist, so did the entire village in this film!! As I said, however, it isn't exactly a comedy--more a sweet little character study that worked GREAT because of the fine performance by Jacques Villeret. Because of this and the wonderful story, I highly recommend it and feel that the current relatively low rating isn't to be trusted.
By the way, as a non-Frenchman, I was shocked that apparently in order to buy poison you go to a pharmacy! And, you need to sign for it to make sure they keep track of the mole killer. I think the latter is a very good idea but selling deadly poisons at a pharmacy?! Odd.
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