Le Passe-muraille (1951)

aka: Mr. Peek-a-Boo
Comedy / Fantasy


Le Passe-muraille photo
When he is locked out of his home by his sister and her husband, a humble civil servant Léon Dutilleul discovers he has a peculiar talent: he can walk through walls. He explains to his artist friend Jean-Paul that his new skill will not alter his lifestyle and he will only use it to do good. Then he meets Susan, an English young woman who makes a living as a cat-burglar. Whilst trying to frustrate her thefts, Léon discovers he is in love with Susan. He realises that his only hope of dissuading her from a life of crime is for him to become a bigger criminal than her. Naming himself Garou-Garou and using his ability to walk into any vault he chooses, Léon embarks on a reckless life of crime...
© filmsdefrance.com 2012

Film Review

Film poster
In the first half a dozen or so films he appeared in, the singer-comedian Bourvil was very much tied to the 'country bumpkin' character he had created for his cabaret act. His likeable persona was enough to sell such mediocre films as Pas si bête (1947), Par la fenêtre (1948) and Le Coeur sur la main (1949), but Jean Boyer allowed Bourvil to develop his range and effectively begin his acting career proper in the popular comedy Le Passe-muraille. Under Boyer's guidance, and helped by a script that for once looks as if some thought has gone into it, Bourvil finally has a chance to show what a great screen comedian he is, and he is rarely funnier than he is here.

The role of Léon is an extension of the character that Bourvil had previously created for himself, an amiable goon who gets himself into all manner of scrapes but always manages to win through via his innate, child-like goodness. Playing opposite Bourvil is the talented English actress Joan Greenwood, whose deep, seductive voice somehow always manages to remind you of crushed velvet. The two actors play off each other superbly and have a natural and genuinely touching rapport.

The film moves along at quite a pace, ceaselessly entertaining. This is down partly to the quality of the comic performances, but also the excellent script by Michel Audiard plays a major part in this. With a screen-writing career that spans nearly thirty years, Audiard is recognised as one of the great writing talents of French cinema. Le Passe-muraille benefits from Audiard's wit and unerring knack of coming up with the bon mot.

The film's special effects are also impressive for a film of this era. Not only are the scenes where Bourvil passes through a solid wall hilarious, they are also surprisingly convincing. Although the film was released in black and white, a colour version of the film also exists.
The above article was written for filmsdefrance.com and should not be reproduced in any medium without the author's permission.


The director Jean Boyer also worked with the actor Bourvil on the films Le Rosier de Madame Husson (1950) and Le Trou normand (1952).

Film Credits

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