Harpagon lives a frugal life although he has accumulated a fortune, which he has buried
in his garden. The old man is ruthlessly tight-fisted and, to further his wealthy,
he intends to marry his daughter off to a wealthy man whilst he himself marries a wealthy
heiress. Unfortunately, his daughter is in love with another young man, whilst the
woman he plans to marry is already beloved, by his son...
(a.k.a. The Miser
) is a rollicking film
adaptation of Molière's famous comedy of the same title.
Whilst remaining true to the original play, the film sparkles with originality and fun
throughout, and is one of the career highpoints for its lead actor and
director Louis de Funès (in fact, it was the only film that de
Funès directed). This comedy icon doesn't just play
the part of the miser Harpagon
- he is
right down to his threadbare socks. In a performance that
probably ranks as his best, de Funès's portrayal is both
exceptionally funny and unequivocally poignant.
He reminds us that Harpagon is not a villain, he is really sad wretch
who deserves our pity more than our contempt. When he is not tyrannising his
children or flogging the dear life out of his servants, Harpagon resembles a tragic figure
who, unloved by humanity, is driven to an obsessive
love of money. De Funès's main achievement is that he succeeds
in arousing our sympathies whilst never letting up on his character's
obnoxious behaviour for a moment.
In keeping with the penny-pinching theme of the play, the sets are
exceptionally spartan for a French period
drama, but this works to the film's advantage. With such
scintillating dialogue and amazing acting, an elaborate set would be a
pointless extravagance. That said, there are some ingenious scene
shifts - at one point,
Harpagon is projected onto a theatre stage just so that he can deliver
one of his asides. De Funès was assisted in directing the
film by his close friend Jean Girault, who directed many of his other
popular comedies, including, notably the famous Gendarme
of the actors who played alongside de Funès in the Gendarme
films also appear in this
film, including Michel Galabru and Claude Gensac.
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