La Chèvre (1981)
aka: The Goat
A film directed by Francis Veber

Genre: Comedy

Film Review

La Chèvre photo
Francis Veber's directorial debut feature Le Jouet (1976) had been only a modest success, in spite of the fact that it starred one of the most popular French comic actors of the period, Pierre Richard. Prior to this, Veber had scripted some enormously successful films, including Le Grand blond avec une chaussure noire (1972), L'Emmerdeur (1973) and Peur sur la ville (1975), and would later co-write one of the most popular film comedies of the decade, La Cage aux folles (1978). His first major success as a director was La Chèvre, in which he partnered Pierre Richard with the rising new star of French cinema, Gérard Depardieu. The film attracted an audience of over seven million (the most popular film of 1981) and went on to become one of the great French comedy classics.

Depardieu had serious misgivings over his role in this film - he was disappointed not to have been given the part of François Perrin but instead was cast as the straight man to Pierre Richard. Despite this, Depardieu and Richard complement one another perfectly and formed one of the most memorable double acts in French cinema. Richard may perform most of the visual gags but it is Depardieu's deadpan reaction to these that makes the film so particularly funny. The partnership was so successful that Veber reunited Richard and Depardieu in his two subsequent comedies, Les Compères (1983) and Les Fugitifs (1986). By the time the third film was released, Depardieu's career had totally overtaken that of his co-star, making a further collaboration almost unthinkable. In the later Veber comedy Tais-toi! (2003), Depardieu starred alongside Jean Reno, with Reno taking the straight man role - a far less successful combination than the Depardieu-Richard pairing.

What La Chèvre has in common with many successful French comedies is that the plot (a rambling and pretty nonsensical affair) is much less important than the relationship that develops between the two main protagonists. In a sense, this is a Gallic take on the classic buddy movie, in which two chalk and cheese individuals have to learn to get along with each other and somehow restrain the urge to murder one another, not easy when one of them is a walking disaster area who makes life Hell for the other. Pierre Richard and Gérard Depardieu not only keep the comedy grenades coming, they also make their characters interesting and believable, and this is probably what lies behind the film's enduring popularity. Too see how the film might have turned out if two lesser actors had been cast you only have look at its lacklustre American remake, Pure Luck (1991), which is no more than a pale imitation of Veber's classic film.
© James Travers 2003-2011
Legal notice: The above article was written for and is protected by copyright. No part of it should be reproduced in any medium without the author's prior consent in writing.

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Film Credits

Directed by Francis Veber
Starring: Pierre Richard, Gérard Depardieu, Pedro Armendáriz Jr., Corynne Charbit, Maritza Olivares
[Read more...]

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