17 September 2005 | nicholas.rhodes
Comme de Bien Entendu .......................
Seemingly unknown across the world, fallen into oblivion in France itself this fine film, for some strange reason joins "La Belle Equipe" and "Le Diable Au Corps" as some of the finest 1930's French films never issued on DVD ! The plot of the film is highly unlikely, a retired judge's car breaks down, or rather is the object of sabotage by his personal driver, and the judge and his wife seek refuge in a local inn/auberge and get involved with gangsters who use the place as a base for their criminal activities but our judge manages to hide his identity right until the end ! There is therefore the contrast of worlds - those of the working class scoundrels and on the other hand of the snobbish judge and his wife are very far removed from it ! The star of the film is none other than Michel Simon, extremely well known as an actor and singer in the 1930's and who, I might add, spent the last 41 years of his life in the town I myself live in now, Noisy le Grand, some twenty miles due east of Paris, France.
The innkeeper is played by a certain "Dorville", whom I had already seen in other films and who seems to have a flexible elastic mouth, just get a decker's of him when he joins in the singing !! Amongst the gangsters is another very well known actress, Arletty, who died some years back when she was 91 and who is above all remembered, in France at least for her remarks "atmosphère, atmosphère" in the Marcel Carné Film "Hotel du Nord".
The judge and his stuck-up wife arrive at the auberge and once they have got some decent wine and food inside them, they loosen up considerably ! Following the initial meal there is dancing as there is an accordionist in the place and the chosen tune is the Jean Van Parys' favourite "Comme de Bien Entendu" ! If you've never heard this tune before, the film's worth watching if only for that. The dance scene is a part of the anthology of popular French cinema of the thirties with most of the occupants of the café participating at one moment or another and even the judge himself singing a few lines ! There are a lot of quiproquo's, false hold-ups, a simulated burglary ( the judge arranges with the gangsters to burgle his own house, just to get rid of all the ghastly trinkets his wife had amassed over the years !! ) And the judge manages to keep his identity secret almost until the end when he is recognized by a lady friend ( who had been sentenced by him to prison ). The ending is happy and skilfully done and shamelessly optimistic - the gangsters would have all appeared to turn over a new leaf !! Although the image quality of the film is abysmal and the sound not better, such a shame for such a nice tune as "Comme de Bien Entendu", the plot and acting is both superb and funny. However many times I see it, I am always in fits of laughter !