7 July 2006 | guy-bellinger
Well worth the ride
If you look at the credits you will easily find out why this charming little film is so under-rated: Jean Halain wrote it and André Hunebelle directed it. Both men have written and done much worse, I admit, mainly in the second half of their career, but if you leave your blinkers behind and watch the film for what it is, you will derive much pleasure from this ride with Pierre Verger, also known as "Monsieur Taxi".
Michel Simon is, as usual, in fine form in a part that fits him like a glove, probably written by Halain with him in mind. He shines as this typical Paris cab driver. Grumbling, like too many of his colleagues (this is no cliché: I personally experienced the thing more than once) and abusive, but once at home a good family man concerned about his next of kin. Several real-life features have been given to the fiction character, which enhances its credibility: like Michel Simon, Pierre is bad-tempered but honest(demanding Simon was never satisfied with what he was doing), is a bit of an anarchist (policemen, including his own brother-in-law, are his pet aversion), and loves animals (a she-monkey in real life while here, it is a dog... sharing his hostility to any form of power). And he is not alone, a host of the wonderful character actors of the time are there on duty,from Pauline Carton to Jeanne Fusier-Gir to Paul Demange, including an excellent Jean Brochard,memorable as a henpecked husband blowing a fuse after fifteen years of frustration. Among the younger actors, Roland Alexandre and Monique Darbaud play very naturally.
The background of this comedy is interesting too. Historically speaking first as, thanks to the title taxi, we cross Paris up and down and this is moving since this is the capital in 1952 and God knows that it has changed since that time. Secondly, it is pleasant to see how carefully Halain and Hunebelle observe their characters as they live their everyday lives in the social context of the time. Nearly all proletarian types, they struggle to make ends meet in old, little comfortable flats. In his humble way, "Monsieur Taxi" can be regarded as a slice of life in post-war France.
All this does not prevent the film from being very funny, thanks to top-notch dialogs delivered to perfection by excellent actors. To make a long story short, "Monsieur Taxi", even if it does not break new ground in the direction field,is well worth the ride.