When his daughter Maria goes missing shortly after her arrival in
Acapulco, wealthy businessman Alexandre Bens engages private detective
Campana to find her. The search proves to be fruitless, so
Bens decides to take the advice of a psychologist and send someone who
is as habitually unlucky as Maria to look for her. The
ideal man for the job is the company accountant François Perrin,
who attracts bad luck like a pot of jam attracts wasps.
Reluctantly, Campana agrees to return to Mexico and resume his
investigation with his new sidekick, Perrin. It is not long
before Campana wishes he had stayed at home...
Francis Veber's directorial debut feature Le
(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
(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
(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!
starred alongside Jean Reno, with Reno taking the straight man role - a
far less successful combination than the Depardieu-Richard pairing.
What La Chèvre
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
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