Elle et moi (1952)

aka: She and Me
Comedy / Romance


Synopsis

Elle et moi photo
Jean Montaigu is a confirmed bachelor who loves the company of women but lives in mortal fear of getting snared in the matrimonial net. Alas, his worst nightmare comes true when the capricious Juliette Capulet storms into his life and promptly whisks him down the aisle. Quelle tragédie!  Once the disaster of the honeymoon is out of the way, Jean and Juliette set about finding somewhere to live in Paris, not an easy task as neither of them has any money. After a doomed attempt to make a conjugal nest in a dilapidated barge, the couple take up residence in a house belonging to an eccentric ex-military man, Monsieur Belhomme. All too soon, the latter begins to resent the presence of the young strangers in his house and does everything he can to drive them away. In the end it is Belhomme who is taken away, by the police. Now that they have the house to themselves, Jean and Juliette can begin their married life in earnest and are soon the model of the modern bourgeois couple. Realising that Juliette's taste for the finer things in life is slowly ruining him, Jean longs for the carefree days of bachelorhood...
© filmsdefrance.com 2015


Film Review

Film poster
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.
The above article was written for filmsdefrance.com and should not be reproduced in any medium without the author's permission.


Trivia

The director Guy Lefranc also worked with the actor Dany Robin on the films Une histoire d'amour (1951) and Suivez-moi jeune homme (1958).


Film Credits



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