, 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
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
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
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