L'Avare (1980)

aka: The Miser
Comedy / Drama


L'Avare photo
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...
© filmsdefrance.com 2012

Film Review

Film poster
L'Avare (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 Harpagon, 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 films. Several 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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