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Leonard Rossiter is excellent in the central role of Joseph Pujol, the 'Petomane' of the title, who enthralled European audiences at the end of the 19th century with his unusual repetoire of impersonations performed entirely through farting! This is a delightful short film that certainly isn't for all tastes, but it's an interesting insight into a very real personality who can probably be viewed as history's first genuine alternative comedian.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a fairly bizarre film and not simply because of its subject
Directed by the man who directed "Monty Python's Flying Circus," written by the duo who gave British TV "Steptoe and Son" (which begat our own "Sanford and Son"), "Le Petomane" plays largely like an extended Python sketch, which is ironic since virtually everything portrayed in the film actually happened.
This film is that rare work, the historical comedy. The only other one that comes to mind is Trey Parker's "Cannibal! The Musical," but Parker's film differs in that he is not trying to produce docudrama, and so much is added to ensure we understand that's not what this is.
Of course, cannibalism isn't funny, while farting generally is. MacNaughton, Galton and Simpson have the burden of trying to decide whether to be serious or silly with a source material it's almost impossible to make serious.
But since Pujol retired from the stage in 1914 because he felt his act inappropriate in time of war, the film takes a sudden and decided turn to serious that seems jarring. It's hard to know whether the last scene, Pujol's heartfelt farewell on the occasion of his final performance, followed by a wind instrument salute, and Pujol's trademark putting out the footlight candles with wind, is meant to be touching or dryly funny.
Aside from this, the film is highly enjoyable, giving us a good impression of what this forgotten great of the Moulin Rouge stage was like. Let us just say, fans of the movies "Blazing Saddles," and "South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut" will find much to enjoy.
The cast is great, especially the one and only Leonard Rossiter, giving us the deadpan, serious Pujol quite effectively.
I think Leonard Rossiter played this role to perfection. No one else could have coped in the same way I wish I had a copy, I lost mine some time ago His facial expressions said it all. It was said that a doctor had to be present when the original artist appeared in Paris and I can well believe it as I was in serious trouble and doubled up with laughter and unable to breathe. Who can give you a belly laugh nowadays on TV or in theatre. It is all snide humour or camp with giggles being the limit one can expect. The man was a true comedian and will never be replaced.It seems all the best artists of this type have moved on over with the exception of Ken Dodd who can still incapacitate his audience to this day.
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