The Cabbage Soup (1981)
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The beauty of that film comes before all from the greay quality of the actors and of their interpretation. And it's true not only for Louis de Funès, but also for Jean Carmet and Jacques Villeret. It's surely because of the quality of the direction of Jean Girauld, on the one hand and the dragging of the quality of play of that tremendous actor who was Louis de Funès on the other hand.
I have seen that film about fifty times at least, and I feel the need to see it again about three to four times a year. Each time I like it and never find it vulgar, because it's necessary to be highter than the apparent vulgarity of certain scenes. Never forget that everyone can, at a time in his life do some scenes like these, and we should not feel ashamed to do that, it's all and completely human. It's precisely what the film is, very human, and it explains the attachment we have for it. Even if the film is a little budget one, it's one of the best of that great actor who was Louis de Funès.
In many ways, his second-to-last film was one of the most unusual de-Funes-Films. For one, the viewer can intrinsically tell, that De Funes was a very sick man; somebody who's at the end of his road, yet still summoning up his strength to give us the usual over-the-top, hyper-ventilating performance for which he was known and loved. Despite this being a "typical" de-Funes-Film, there are very strong, melancholic moments (especially those involving farmer Claude and his resurrected wife Franchine or the when Claude is reminiscing about past days), which was very rare for the typical de-Funes-film. What was also very atypical was the electro-sound-music that at times reminds of Jean-Michel Jarre. Some people have complained that the soundtrack wasn't fitting. Matter of personal taste really, but I dare you to look up the title-song on YouTube and not have the tune, be it the original or one of the many covers, stuck in the back of your head for a long time to come.
In essence, all slapstick and de Funes hyper-conundrum aside, it is a movie about people longing for simpler, "down to earth" (paradoxically) times, when you could still enjoy the starlit, countryside-sky with a friend, getting drunk on wine and Pastis (and, yes, not to mention the fart-tournaments between de Funes and Carmet, which goes beyond the contemporary "laugh because somebody farted"-joke). One of the films highlights is the scene where de Funes introduces his alien friend into the "art" of eating his homemade cabbage soup – watch it and tell me honestly to the face that it doesn't make you long for a bowl and a piece of bread, whether you like cabbage or not. Is this movie vulgar? Sure thing it is. Dishonest? Quiet the opposite. Makes one almost feel a little guilty writing this over the internet. Sure, those times aren't coming back, but that's what movies are for, no? One can honestly say: they don't make films like this anymore. I tend to ignore the last De-Funes-film ("Le gendarme et les gendarmettes"), thinking of "La Soup aux choux" as the final farewell from this master-comedian, as if to say: hey, no matter how tough things get, face them with a mischievous grin; what comes will come, but it will come more smoothly with a glass of Pastis and a bowl of home-made cabbage soup.
Mind you: this is by no means an objective review but I personally give it 9 out of 10.
French cinematic history. I am not sure, however, whether it would have any success outside France. Is it known elsewhere under another title which I suppose would be " Cabbage Soup " ???
The best De Funes film, quite different from the usual bulk.
It is my favourite movie with Louis de Funès next to "L'Aile ou la cuisse". He seems to be born for such a role playing a grumpy old man.
Louis de Funes acts very nice in this movie. Movie's cinematography is done nice with minimal light, which probably shows main characters' distance from the rest of the world. Another nice thing is movie's catchy score. About the acting of other actor's besides Funes' , it is maybe a little bit done in expressionistic style.
It's got a little bit bad effects(which is not so terrible, after all this is a 1981 movie) and somehow weird style of humor(jokes about farting) but after all, it has a happy end.
When they unintentionally catch the attention of a cabbage-hungry alien, excitement ensues, friendships get adjusted, and of course there's a happy "ending". What makes this very simple story so fun to watch are the three main actors, they're so adorable you could watch them an hour longer without ever getting bored I think.
The most important aspect of this film though is the script by René Fallet. How come? Old people farting under the moon? Indeed. René Fallet asks two important questions through this book / film. What happens with old people when their kids are gone? What happens when old people suffer of loneliness? What happens in the countryside when small villages die? And for that twist, that important thought, this comedy reveals a more tragic side. Watch it for the funny bits though.
Because "The Cabbage Soup", albeit a sci-fi movie, is less about aliens than it is about soups. The film is set in a rural village that looks like a ghost town, victim of urban expansion, so blatant the mayor would trade its remain dignity for a touristic park to keep it alive. There's no park yet and in one of the last occupied spots two farmers still live: a well digger named Le Bombé (Jean Carmet) and a clog maker named Le Glaude, played by Louis de Funès. They're alone, their only fun consist of sharing some bread, wine, thoughts about life and death and even indulging to a few flatulent contest. Yes, you'll hear a lot of farting in this film.
I guess this isn't the film's finest moment, not it is the one we'd love to remember from actors De Funes and Carmet, but why should we deem it as 'genius' when Mel Brooks employ it? I won't try to over-analyze this moment, I don't enjoy it either but to the film's defense, it's not used gratuitously, it's the fart that literally "calls" the alien (what difference would have it makes if it were belches?), and in a way it established the farmers' regression to ennui-driven childishness. And paraphrasing 'Mel Brooks', I'll object against the vulgarity label, the film like "The Producers" rises above vulgarity.
Indeed, the bad odors are immediately covered by the delightful aroma coming of the cooking-pot, just like when you enter the kitchen and can tell your favorite meal is being prepared. The farmers live alone but still have enough ingredients to display the most heart-warming hospitality for everyone, including an alien. Even if he's dressed like a SM chick, and makes gobbling noises, like an acute internet used said "he's no less ridiculous than an Ewok". And how refreshing that for once that an Alien comes to Earth, he doesn't visit the White House (or the Elysium Palace), that's what a good French sci-fi film should have, not the 1979 wannabe American ersatz with the Gendarmes.
Yes, forget about these invasion tiresome plots, and imagine "Close Encounter with the Third Kinds" as guests for a Thanksgiving dinner and you'll have a clue about how heart-warming the film is. "The Cabbage Soup" deals with the relationship between friends, between a man and his memories, not to mention, his future. The catalysis to all these events will be a friendly alien played by the lovable rotund comical actor in his memorable debut: Jacques Villeret, the unforgettable François Pignon from "Dinner for Schmucks". It is only fitting that he could play with the then greatest comical actor.
And De Funès was already weakened by his heart condition and after "The Miser", his other co-adaptation with Jean Girault, his need to restrict his roles had uncontrollably brought more sadness and poignancy to his acting. I deplored his work didn't have taken that path earlier, there's something in Funes' contemplation of loneliness aging and declining health that echoes the tragedy of French farmers. If the promises of suicide made by Le Bombé play like a running gag, keep in mind farmers is the profession with the highest-rate of suicides in French, with cops, which De Funès also played ironically. De Funès never hid his admiration for his idol Chaplin, and while he never achieved the dream to make a silent masterpiece, this film is the closest to Chaplin's "Limelight".
It's De Funes "Limelight" as well as his twilight and one of a certain vision of France. There's a statement made in this film, about French roots and origins, symbolized by something as simple and heartfelt as a cabbage soup. Many moments can strike as outdated, childish or not too funny, but it's on the highest spots that this film hits a sensitive chord, one involving the resurrection of Glaude's deceased wife coming back at twenty and unable to resists to the call of the city. The attractively decadent town planning is even more powerfully rendered in a scene where the two farmers are like monkeys in cages visited by tourists who throw peanuts at them, a dying breed indeed.
One could ever draw a sad parallel with the evolution of French cinema. De Funès' time was over, but it needed a final hurrah. And I applaud Girault for having the guts to conclude the film in such a cheerful way. While it might strike as a sort of Deus Ex Machina, you can't just resist to the sight of three actors, all deceased by now, playing accordion and going aboard a flying saucer to a planet where death doesn't exist. I would love to imagine there's such a place where Funes, Carmet and Villeret (and Girault) are sharing a few jokes and enjoying themselves just no farts!
"The Cabbage Soup" is really one of a kind, but it does treat its material rather seriously, the composer himself, veteran Raymond Lefebvre wanted to make a music in the wave of electronic music and mix with a popular folk song, needless to say that the theme is one of the most popular of French cinema, a regular ringtone and one of the film's elements of endearing success.
There's a cheerfulness, a gentleness and a tender poignancy in "The Cabbage Soup" but ultimately you'll savor the film like the best meal with your friend, and a last supper with comical legend Louis de Funès.
Out of 100, I gave it 66. That's good for *½ out of ****. Ten years ago, I gave it 78. Seen at home, in Toronto, on November 28th, 2004.