Saturday, August 15, 2009

Les visiteurs (The Visitors)

This is not the best French comedy I've seen although it contains a few good laughs. However, the film was seriously pleasant to watch. In fact, it's unashamedly hilarious without being silly to the point that you'd consider it as a film targeting children.

In 1123, Count Godefroy de Montmirail (Jean Reno) is about to marry Frénégonde de Pouille (Valérie Lemercier) after he had fought under the command of king Louis VI. Unfortunately, Godefroy did a terrible mistake that will make Frénégonde run away from him. In order to make sure that he'll have descendants, Godefroy asks Eusebius, a wizard, to send him (by serving him a potion) along with Jacquouille (Christian Clavier), his servant, back at the moment when the mistake was done.

However, given that Eusebius forgot to put an essential ingredient in the potion, Godefroy and Jacqouille are sent in 1993. In this period, Godefroy and Jacquouille will meet Beatrice (Valérie Lemercier), Godefroy's descendant who looks exactly like Frénégonde. Needless to say that a shock of generation will shake Godefroy and Jacquouille up. In fact, in 1993, they discover the republican democracy, hygiene, modern sex and above all, the removal of social classes (ex: the people versus the aristocrats).

Now, let's get to the bottom of things. The film uses its historical accuracy to illustrate in a very humorous way 1) the astonishment of the two leading characters when they see how much France has changed in 720 years and 2) these characters' attempt to adapt themselves to the 20th century. In the case of Godefroy, we just can't help ourselves when we see the scene in which Beatrice gives a crash course on French history when she finally understands that Godefroy and Jacquouille are genuinely men from the Middle Ages. Therefore, just imagine his surprise when he learns that at a certain time, people rebelled themselves to have a republic in which every men are considered equal before the law.

While Godefroy's point of view is rather well explored, Jacquouille's is explored in a superficial way even though we know that he'll gradually embrace some ideas of French republicanism (i.e. freedom over serfdom). Nonetheless, as a comedy, Les visiteurs remains a good observation of the French society on the eve of the celebration of the 205th celebration of the Storming of the Bastille. In fact, to Godefroy's surprise, everything suggests that the modern society doesn't really consider people of the Middle Ages as France's national heroes because they're reminiscent of the detested monarchy. This goes without saying that many modern French, as they're seen by Godefroy, are more enamoured with the revolutionary period(s).

Finally, despite its flaws, Les visiteurs is far to be a waste of time. In fact, each minute - after Godefroy and Jacquouille are brought in 1993 - is used in order to illustrate the chasm that exists between the modern society and the Middle Ages. Is the film funny? Well, if you're in for a good laugh, then watch this film.

Rating: 3.5/5

Origin:France (1993)
Length:107 minutes
Screenplay:Christian Clavier and Jean-Marie Poiré
Director:Jean-Marie Poiré
Christian Clavier, Jean Reno, Valérie Lemercier, Marie-Anne Chazel and Christian Bujeau

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