Elle et moi (1952)
aka: She and Me
A film directed by Guy Lefranc

Genre: Comedy / Romance

Film Review

Elle et moi photo
François Périer was at the height of his popularity when he lent his talents to this exuberant comedy, an inspired adaptation of Jean Duché's novel Elle et moi. A major talent of the French stage and screen, Périer was now recognised as one of the leading dramatic actors of the day, evidenced by his memorable performances in Christian-Jacque's Un revenant (1946) and Jean Cocteau's Orphée (1949), but he seemed to shy away from comedic roles. As the Romeo-turned-reluctant husband in Elle et moi, Périer shows a surprising aptitude for comedy and has the audience in stitches for most of the film, whilst at the same time turning in another convincing character portrayal. Even when the gags are painfully familiar (most of them would be recycled ad nauseum in other films and TV sitcoms) Périer has no difficulty getting the laughs, aided and abetted by his sublime comedy tormenter, Dany Robin, and ace screenwriter Michel Audiard, reputedly French cinema's most dependable gag merchant.

Elle et moi was the fourth film to be directed by Guy Lefranc, who specialised in lively comedies for a mainstream audience. Lefranc began his directing career with a fair adaptation of Jules Romains' famous play Knock (1951), which he followed with a string of amiable comedies that include Capitaine Pantoufle (1953), again featuring Périer, and La Bande à papa (1956), a vehicle for the much loved comedian Fernand Raynaud. For Elle et moi, Lefranc appears to have taken his inspiration from the popular American comedies of the past decade, Preston Sturges's films being the most likely influence. The combustible Périer-Robin pairing calls to mind similar sparkling rapports between a leading man and lady in many a Hollywood classic, from Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night (1934) to Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby (1938). Lefranc's mild mannered farce isn't quite in the league of these all-time classics but it still has enough comedy muscle to keep you laughing all the way through, even when the humour takes a decidedly politically incorrect detour or two.

As superb as François Périer and Dany Robin are, both are eclipsed in the middle portion of the film when Noël Roquevert shows up like a mad jack-in-the-box and regales us with what could easily rate as the comedy highlight of his career. Not content with being the prissy landlord from Hell, Roquevert ends up scaring his tenants half to death when the film goes off at a tangent and becomes a deranged parody of the Old Dark House thriller. No doubt on the strength of this marvellous collaboration, François Périer, Dany Robin and Noël Roquevert were brought together shortly afterwards for a rematch, in André Hunebelle's comedy swashbuckler Cadet-Rousselle (1954).

Once Roquevert has been dragged off to the funny farm (or his next film), another comedy legend, Jean Carmet, is parachuted in to help prevent the comedy juggernaut from stalling in its final act. This is where the film goes off the boil somewhat and we are treated to gags that would be more at home in a British sitcom or Carry On film, a case in point being the famous bottom-perforating scene. (The moral to all bridegrooms: never let the missus get her hands on a hypodermic syringe.)  The juiciest treat comes near the start of the film, when comedy colossus Louis de Funès puts in a brief appearance (as he was wont to do in the lean years before he became a mega-star) and puts Périer well and truly in his place, with a plausible imitation of any waiter you will ever encounter in Paris. Elle et moi has one or two shortcomings but the enthusiasm of its high calibre cast carries it through, making it one of the more enjoyable French comedies of the 1950s.
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Film Credits

Directed by Guy Lefranc
Starring: François Périer, Dany Robin, Jacqueline Gauthier, Suzanne Courtal, Suzanne Guémard
[Read more...]

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