In this 2003 remake of the classic 1952 French film, Fanfan la Tulipe is a swashbuckling lover who is tricked into joining the army of King Louis XV by Adeline La Franchise, who tells Fanfan that by doing so, he will eventually marry one of the king's daughters.
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Fanfan is a young handsome peasant. He joins the army to escape marriage and because a gipsy girl predicted he will get glory and the king's daughter as a wife. But the gipsy girl was in fact Adeline, the daughter of the recruiting officer. Once he has discovered the stratagem, Fanfan refuses to forget this dream and decides to fulfill the destiny of the fake prediction. Fantastic swashbuckling adventures in a 18th century setting, with a light criticism of the war and the mighty.Written by
There's much to enjoy in this joyous French swashbuckler, particularly since it doesn't contain one slow moment. The action is almost nonstop, and all the performers contribute hilarious and heartfelt moments that make "FanFan la Tulipe" a delightful romp. It was a huge box office hit in France, turning both the handsome and charismatic Gérard Philipe and the beautiful and voluptuous Gina Lollobrigida into big stars.
The story is set during the reign of King Louis XV, and the character Fanfan as played by the splendid Gérard Philipe is sort of a French "Tom Jones." He's a guy who can't help but get in trouble with the ladies, and the opening scene has him escaping a "shotgun wedding" by spontaneously enlisting in the French military. Unfortunately, soon this way of life doesn't agree with Fanfan, and he winds up getting himself even deeper into trouble. Gina Lollobrigida plays the seductive daughter of the Commanding Officer of Fanfan's unit, who inspires Fanfan by making an unusual prediction for his future -- one which she later comes to regret.
The choreography of the sword battles and the other physical confrontations are top-notch, very unpredictable and absolutely hilarious. A stunt double was hardly (if ever!) used for the athletic Philipe, and it's obviously the French star doing most of the work. I heard that the actual stunt men working the movie presented him with an certificate when the shooting wrapped, which named Philipe as an honorary stuntman himself. Most of what Philipe accomplishes here has to be seen to be believed. Jumping from rooftops, dangling from trees, wild horseback chases and so much more lend a wild energy to the proceedings.
Perhaps the only downside for me at least was that "Fanfan la Tulipe" is filmed in black and white. If ever there was a film that cried out for color -- this is the one. The locales, costumes, sets and props would have been magnificent in color, I think. In fact, on the Criterion DVD that I watched, they included one sequence that had been colorized. It looked great, and although I would never suggest that every b&w film would be better with color, this one certainly would. For those unaware, the colorization process has made great advances since the 1980's, and they can now make the colors look as vibrant or as subtle as the scene dictates it should be.
The supporting cast also provides lots of enjoyment, and I'd be neglectful not to mention a few of these fine European actors. Geneviève Page is supremely beautiful, icy with an undercurrent of passion as Madame Pompadour, Olivier Hussenot is wonderful as Fanfan's loyal sidekick who's saddled with six small children and an obese peasant wife. Nerio Bernardi makes a comically despicable antagonist who meets a poetic fate eventually.
So, I'd highly recommend this to fans of Errol Flynn movies, especially since Philipe conveys some of the same boyish and naughty charm of that classic star. Director Christian-Jaque formed an adventurous and romantic comedy that has loads of charm and thrills. Swashbuckling at its best!
***** out of *****
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