La Zizanie (1978)
aka: The Spat
A film directed by Claude Zidi

Genre: Comedy

Film Review

La Zizanie photo
La Zizanie, one of the funniest of the later Louis de Funès film comedies, sees the unlikely pairing of the great comic actor with Annie Girardot, then at the height of her popularity. Despite her association with more serious fare, such as André Cayatte's Mourir d'aimer (1971), Giradot was also a more than capable comic performer, and her sparky confrontation with de Funès in this raucous comedy is among the comedy highlights of her career. By this stage, both actors had developed a forceful screen persona - de Funès was the mean-spirited and horribly intolerant bourgeois fiend, Giradot a thick-skinned feminist who always knew how to put men in their place. Putting these two actors together in the same film is like keeping dynamite and nitro-glycerine together in your sock drawer - you can expect plenty of fireworks. True to type, Girardot plays a strong-willed feminist-cum-ecologist who is improbably married to de Funès, an unscrupulous factory manager.

By accident or by design, the incessant husband-and-wife tussle that is amusingly enacted by the film's two stars makes an excellent parody of the real-life conflict between environmentalists and industrialists which began in the mid 1970s and which has become ever more vociferous since. In the mid-to-late 1970s, environmentalism had become a burning issue, fuelled by man-made ecological disasters such as the Seveso dioxin catastrophe. Other topical themes the film touches on are unemployment and the role of women in society. The film's topicality no doubt contributed to its popularity - it attracted an audience of 2.8 million in France. Before the film was released, the director Jean-Pierre Mocky successfully won a plagiarism lawsuit against its producers, claiming that it stole ideas from a scenario he had previously offered Louis de Funès.

The film benefits from another successful alliance - that of de Funès with director Claude Zidi. Both have a natural flair for comedy which La Zizanie, their second film together - after L'Aile ou la cuisse - bears out very well. Amongst the comic situations you are unlikely to forget are: Louis de Funès unwittingly destroying a billiard table whilst playing a game of billiards, de Funès and Girardot going to bed in a bedroom which has been transformed into a factory workshop (complete with lathes, conveyor belts and arc-welding equipment), and Girardot discovering that her treasured pet flesh-eating fish has been frozen to death (and then boiled). A wonderfully funny Julien Guiomar is on hand to lend the film some additional comedy muscle, not that it needs it. Like several de Funès comedies, La Zizanie has no qualms about going way over the top, but this is what audiences came to expect from France's top comedy performer - non-stop hilarity, with Louis de Funès doing for film comedy what Michelangelo did to the Sistine Chapel, but in a more ecologically sustainable way.
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Film Credits

Directed by Claude Zidi
Starring: Louis de Funès, Annie Girardot, Maurice Risch, Jean-Jacques Moreau, Geneviève Fontanel
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