French Fried Vacation (1978) Poster

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Surprisingly profound farce (possible spoiler)
alice liddell9 May 2000
Warning: Spoilers
LES BRONZES is an ensemble farce in the CARRY ON tradition. Except it's French. I watched this with a predominantly French audience, and was astonished at the bombardment of laughter in the first ten minutes at scenes I wasn't getting. I feared it would be that dreaded thing - a culturally-specific comedy. But, once you settle down, you can enjoy an old-school farce about desperate scrambling for sex and not getting much, stereotypes, humiliation and failure.

The film is set entirely in an African holiday resort, focusing on a group of club holidaymakers and the staff. Anyone who has seen Julian and Denise's recent Sky programme will know what to expect (although this is funny) - practical jokes (staff shower group photograph with buckets of water, or steal the trunks of a clumsy dullard trying to impress the ladies), silly beach games, vaudeville-type performances, trips into the surrounding countryside, rigorous massages etc.

There is no one narrative in the film, and this, in one sense, (if I may say so under IMDb guidelines) is its drawback. The lack of a coherent goal, or structure, means that the film just wanders at will, like a holiday. You can't even say the drive for sex is a goal, because we don't stay long enough with any single character to care about their adventures. The lack of form also means that amid the undoubtedly sidesplitting highspots, there are an awful lot of longueurs. The good bits lose momentum and therefore effect. Compare the ensemble films of Altman, which seem unfocused, but are actually rigorously patterned and hence impart enormous power.

The good thing, though, about this diffusion of narrative focus, is that we are treated to lots of wonderful characters in hilarious situations which can just be funny in themselves, without being weighed down by the need to be relevant to plot. And if the characters are stereotypes, the actors (including future French megastars Thierry Lhermitte, Josianne Balasko and Michel Blanc), who improvised the material on stage in its original incarnation, make sure they're always alive.

There's the 'modern' couple Nathalie and Miguel, whose inability to be honest with each other means that they try to sleep around against their will. There's Jean-Claude Dusse, a shy, clumsy virgin whose innocent attempts to meet women end up looking seedy. There's the doctor, wearing an offputting pair of undersized trunks, or Gigi, the beautiful, seemingly dippy girl whose every relationship seems all-consuming until the next.

Then there's the staff - the serial bedder Popeye, who has a breakdown when his wife actually has an affair. Or Bobo, a former insurance clerk turned clown whose dreams of fame and women have yet to come true. Or Bourseault, the former TV star reduced to this kind of work, locked into his inane image, and observing others.

Though mostly played for laughs, there is an emotional undercurrent occasionally gleaming through, in which we see the fears and failures of the various characters revealed beneath their bluster. There is a death, but this isn't used to expose the vapid decadence of this society; indeed, it is absorbed and quickly forgotten. The film ends on a glum note as the stud and the clown indulge in self-pity, but Elton's circle of life is asserted, although now we know it's dark side it seems less amusing.

LES BRONZES can be seen as a kind of Bakhtinian carnival, in which ordered society moves out of normality for a period, plays out its crises and anxieties, desires and dreams, overturning social mores, before returning back to the grind. The film begins in darkened, rain-sodden chaos, as the guests run around in a blur looking for their huts, and ends in restoration, errant couples reunited, even some happiness achieved, society renewed.

Except for one person, an uptight, snobbish, racist, spinsterish cosmetologist - we realise early on that her objectionable personality is only a screen for profound loneliness, and we wince with her at her failed attempts to connect. Her metaphorical banishment from the comic closure leaves rather a sour taste, and is a hint of a misogyny that, some claim, becomes more prominent in Leconte's work.
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The Sun Shines for Everyone ... Does it? ...
ElMaruecan8223 April 2012
As the start of a series of hit comedies, it's promising, as an ensemble cast, it's wonderfully acted, and on its own, it's a cult-classic of French comedy (as 'Cult' -and it's a side note- in the French Dictionary, refers to something so deeply rooted in Pop-Culture that any quote, any character's name, any moment would immediately ring a bell) And the best measurement of a cult-movie's popularity is when people, including myself, knew about the film even before watching it.

And I knew that "Les Bronzés" ("French Fried Vacation") was directed in 1978 and was the very film to pave the way to a generation of comedians who'd define the new face of French comedy in the 80's/90's and even further : Gérard Jugnot, Thierry Lhermitte, Josiane Balasko, Christian Clavier, Michel Blanc and all the other members of the 'Equipe du Splendid', who started on stage in the late 70's. Like a 'baby-boomer 'rat-pack' all these comedians would play a significant part to the evolution of French cinema in both comedy and drama by starring in the most popular to-be-made French movies. On that level, one of the exquisite delights of "French Fried Vacation" is to see all these well-established actors looking so young, with this sparkling innocence in their eyes before stardom would extinguish it. (Hell, Even Gérard Jugnot with his bald head and iconic mustache looks incredibly vulnerable beyond his average-Jean attitude.)

To those who grew up with these actors, "French Fried Vacation" carries a certain nostalgic feeling by depicting a slice of average vacationers' tumultuous lives at a time when everything wasn't centered on suburbs, drugs, or AIDS. Interestingly, most of these actors grew up to become right-wing supporters, when French comedy hadn't been overtaken yet by politically correct liberal artists and the dictatorship of cosmopolitanism (the same that condemned a film like "Amélie" because it didn't feature racial minorities). The 'Splendid Troop' is seen now as old-fashioned but it's still the most authentic depiction of a portion of French working-class youth. This is not to say that "French Fried Vacation" is dated, of course it has this strong 70's women-lib, sexual liberation feeling, but the humor displayed in the film didn't lose its appeal, and is still relevant by today's standards.

Indeed, never too militant or patronizing (a trend that tends to damage the credibility of French comedies today), the tone in "French Fried Vacation" is more realistic and satirical and tactfully flirts with a crude but never gratuitous vulgarity. I would say "it's politically incorrect in the correct way", because it shows the typical French people with no other purpose than mocking their own traits in a sympathetic way. The 'Glorious Thirty', referring to the days of economical expansion that followed the World War II, were over and the time of Louis de Funes, who was incarnating the good old petty-minded hot-headed successful businessman, lost its touch. In the late 70's, France was struck by the crisis, out-dating the France of Gérard Oury and the 'Gendarmes'. That's another thing that I knew about "French Fried Vacation", the film was a landmark in French Comedy.

And deserving more than a mention, there's one the most iconic French movie songs' adapted from a hit by Dalida, the unforgettable "Darla-dirladada", that became the quintessential vacation's themes elevating "French Fried Vacation" to its classic level, as it's impossible to talk about the film without having this catchy tune in mind, and its ridiculous yet classic choreography. The music defines the era's insouciance and free-spirited liberation. In "French Fried Vacation", they're sexually liberated, open to each other, and just want to have fun. It was the days where everything didn't have to be political, social or to carry a deep social meaning, before French comedy would be taken over by an irritating self-righteous dogma. "French Fried Vacation" is like a breath of fresh air that swept off the dust over old French comedy, but makes new Comedy look even worse

All that I knew before watching the film wasn't disappointed when I did and the film only got better after each viewing. Directed by Patrice Leconte, who'd make more ambitious films in the future, it has this awkward directorial debut feeling but nonetheless it's carried by powerful performances from every single actor. It really shows that these actors started on stage. Every movie fan know these characters with the same tenderness as if they were family members, there is the average couple with some emotional problems : Bernard (Gérard Jugnot) and Nathalie (Josiane Balasko), the handsome staff-member Popeye (Thierry Lhermitte) who behind his womanizer's facade, hides a more poignant touch of immaturity, Jerome the doctor, played by a more subtle and nuanced Chritian Clavier (before he would be the clowny Jacquouille from "The Visitors") and of course, at the top, there is Jean- Claude Dus, the ultimate loser, magnificently played by Michel Blanc, the perfect anti- model for all the wannabe womanizers.

Not only are all these characters wonderfully played but they're all extremely well-developed with a level of three-dimensionality that raised the film above all the other comedies. They're flawed people, but with a touch of realism and authenticity that beautifully combines between the laughs and the pathos: we both laugh at them but feel empathetic at a same time, a credit to the clever writing. Naturally, the film is not perfect and the structure made of series of sketch-like situations create the feeling of an inexistent narrative of storyline, but the pay-off is still positive, and the film doesn't lose its time creating a 'story' for the sake of it, it's just the joyful, sometimes depressing, sometimes ironic, journey of a group of vacationers, exporting their everyday issues even in vacation.

Indeed, if the movie opens with Gainsbourg's hit 'Sea, Sex and Sun', we kind of expect from the sight of the vacationers that only two of these three premises would be fulfilled.
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The classic french movie comedy
anthony.bodin6 January 2000
This movie is one of the most important comedy in France. Almost everybody in France know one or several sentences of it. If you want to make some joke with a French guy, you could try to learn some of the principal sentences of the movie and you could be sure that he will laugh. The movie is adapted from the stage, and the play was very succesful for many months. So, every shot have been studied to be hilarious. There are not at all any breaks. Of course, if you could understand French, I will advise you to see the French Version because the jokes could be not as good in English. In conclusion, I would also advise you to see the second movie from the same team: "Les Bronzes Font du Ski" which is at least as excellent as the first.
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A classic french comedy!
paddy-209 January 1999
Les Bronzés is a cult french comedy, widely appreciated in France. It stars most of today's finest french comedians: Thierry Lhermitte, Gérard Jugneau, Michel Blanc, Josiane Balasko and Christian Clavier. I've just finished watching it for the first time, and it was as enjoyable as I expected to be. It's the sort of hilarious french comedy based mainly on sexually explicit dialogue and sex related jokes. The film is about young french singles and couples on a charter holiday in western Africa trying their best to be polygams, while getting some sun at the same time. Those who enjoy french comedies must see Les Bronzés!!
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A real French mythical comedy
projecthelix1 April 2005
This movie is a myth, a classic for the French young generation. If you meet a French girl or guy and try to make contact with him or her, you can be sure that a little quote from "Les Bronzés" will start a passionate conversation.

Nevertheless, you must have a very good knowledge of the French language because of all the jokes and puns; if it's not the case this movie may appear as a very "unfunny" comedy.

You must know that there's a sequel, "les Bronzés font du ski", which has had a great audience success (it's on French TV once a semester and I am not kidding) but which appears to be less funny (less puns). However, it seems to be even more mythical that the first opus.
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A shibboleth of a movie
Karl Self3 September 2008
There are two sides to this movie: superficially it is an unspectacular comedy about a group of tourists spending their two weeks at a Club Med resort somewhere in Africa, or the West Indies or wherever. There is the underlying promise of sexual adventures, but they only materialise for the bored, toned and bronzed club entertainers, not the balding and paunchy guests.

Like an iceberg, the more important part of this movie is invisible, and lies in the incredibly fast-paced dialogues. It's French quipping at its best, and if you only so much as bat an eye you'll miss it. For this reason the French love this movie, and the rest of the world wonders what they're on about (this type of humour doesn't translate well or even at all). I saw an original French version without subtitles, and have to admit that most of it was too fast for me.

For this reason: if you're French -- you probably have seen this movie, and possibly even on this very day. If you're not French, you won't understand a dicky bird. This review is so pointless.
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Franco-French movie
lmartenot15 December 2004
Great and wonderful movie. A cult movie for me, my friends, my family.. and all French speaking person I know. It is a must, but in its original French version... otherwise, better pass as it's all in the language and the twisted French culture. I Love it !! The acting is great, the script delicious and the jokes hilarious. The comedy is a little basic but so French that each French national may recognize themselves, or their neighbors. The sequel called "Les Bronzes font du ski" is even better but the initial one remain a must see of the French humor at least for the generation of the 80's. I personally watch it once a year with my wife.
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This film has already achieved the status of a classic film.
FilmCriticLalitRao11 September 2009
If one looks closely at the history of French cinema there is no doubt that Patrice Leconte's cult film "Les Bronzés" has achieved the status of a classic film.The sad thing is that it is considered as a classic film but in a very negative sense.This is because a major section of academic critics in France and elsewhere would never be ready to acknowledge it as a true classic film representing the essential qualities of French culture.Whatever critics might say,reality is that all viewers need film a like this as the survival of art cinema is not possible without the growth of commercial cinema.It is really hard to believe that Patrice Leconte has directed this comic film in the early stages of his career.He is more famous as a director who has made many brilliant psychological dramas in the later part of his successful career.In order to appreciate "Les Bronzés",a viewer must know French language or familiarize oneself with aspects of French culture otherwise the meaning of innumerable rib tickling jokes will surely be lost.This is simply because some of jokes and situations in this film are simply untranslatable.It is a known fact that French people are true expert connoisseurs of sea,sex and sun but some of the behavioral traits of Gallic people shown in "Les Bronzés" are not entirely full of truth as not all French people behave in an irresponsible,wacky manner when they are away from home.The best way to remember and watch "Les Bronzés" is to consider it as one of those rare films in which an intelligent eye can sense hopelessness,misery and pain even in the lives of carefree tourists making merry.
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Black And Tan
writers_reign15 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This French cult movie is now available on DVD and the plus factor is that it boasts virtually all of Splendid, the theatre company who collectively wrote and acted in several landmark productions such as Le Pere Noel est une ordeure, and is a chance to see the early - it was only his second full-length film - directorial work of Patrice Leconte but the negative factor is the dubbed English soundtrack which not only misses 90 per cent of the verbal humour, for which it can't be blamed but contrives to make all the characters sound the same, as if they could only run to one male and one female and hired two dorks who were unable to speak in anything other than monotones. Even if you don't speak French or speak only grade-school French you're probably better off ignoring the dubbed option and just relish this tightly-knit group of actors-writers in their salad days - Josie Balasko, for example is barely recognizable as a size 10 - and have fun trying to locate such modern stars as Thierry Thermitte, Gerard Jugnot, Michel Blanc etc. Essentially it's a send-up of the Club Med scene and plays more like a series of vignettes than a well-made play but the rewards are there if you persevere.
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Les Bronzés is the real deal
JustinJRivers26 September 2010
Most of the reviews have already explained much of the plot, story, etc... so I'll take this in another direction: what its really all about.

While "Les Bronzés" is a comedy, much of it is based on real-life situations that actually happen and what goes on in these vacation villages. I know because not only did I grow up in France and understand their psyche, but I worked for the company parodied for a while.

From the attitude of the GOs, to the naiveté of the GMs, the goofy activities in the village to the sleeping arrangements - the nightly banquets to the evening shows - pretty much everything is portrayed spot on. And *that's* what makes the movie really funny. This movie is a classic in France.

Some of the humor will be lost in translation, however, the subtitles are pretty close to conveying the jist of humor when they cannot be accurately translated. It's a must see for any francophile looking for a good laugh. And if you liked this one, Thierry Lhermite is also in "Le Diner des Cons", which was just remade in Hollyweird as "The Dinner Game".
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Perhaps it is better if you are French
psteier23 July 2000
A comedy centered on one week's group of tourists and the staff at a French holiday resort in Africa. Includes plenty of hijinks and sleeping around, but basically fluff.

Very little is seen of the Africans, props in the movie as in the holiday camp.
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