23 April 2009 | GrandeMarguerite
1968... Time for the big wash!
Bourvil was known (and loved!) for his talents as a comic actor, playing often roles of gentle and naive characters. But he was much more than that as he was also capable of more dramatic or serious roles (check for instance "L"arbre de Noël", "Les misérables", "Fortunat" and of course "Le cercle rouge"). And what he did with director Jean-Pierre Mocky in "Un drôle de paroissien", "La grande lessive" and "L'étalon" was simply, hem, different.
Starting out as an actor, Jean-Pierre Mocky soon began to direct his own movies. By 1962, he had defined his style: personal, provocative, sometimes desultory, sometimes going too far past the limits of bad taste. Among his best films stands "La grande lessive", released in 1968 (not a coincidence) when France was shaken up by various social movements.
This comedy is about Armand Saint-Just (Bourvil), a high school teacher who plans a vendetta against television. An eccentric inventor has produced an aerosol spray that when applied effectively renders television antennae useless. With the help of a sport teacher who scales heights to apply the spray to the receivers, Saint-Just's goal is to keep his pupils from being polluted by a senseless medium (in his eyes). Soon the TV network executives launch an all-out search for the perpetrators as television revenues plummet. The police is soon called in to solve the mystery as Saint-Just and his crew slowly move towards their ultimate goal (the Eiffel tower, where the biggest antenna is)...
All right, this caricature against the power of television has aged a little bit. And yes, Mocky has almost always botched his work. However, movies like this one contain enjoyable moments as most of the actors deliver really funny performances. Bourvil was amazing in Mocky's movies, but here it is definitively Francis Blanche who has the craziest part of them all (if you think that Francis Blanche in drag may just look like a nightmare... you're just quite right!). Having said that, this movie lacks typically of a real script with a well-written ending. Nevertheless, its corrosive content still leaves a rather strong impression. Too bad that the cinematography has not the same strength!