25 December 2005 | nicholas.rhodes
Entertaining, but not one of his best
Up to the middle 1980's Pierre Richard was a major figure in French comedy, this film though pretty entertaining is not one of his best. The title word "La Carapate" is not actually correct French but is derived from the verb "se carapater" meaning to go on a jaunt, a spree or an adventure.
In this film he plays the lawyer for a violent criminal who has been condemned to death and whom he is visiting in Prison in Lyon. The time is set in May 1968 when there were numerous student-worker riots in several of France's larger cities. During the visit, things turn bad, there is a riot where prisoners escape and our violent criminal ( played by Victor Lanoux ) escapes taking Pierre Richard hostage. The body of the film covers their escapade from Lyon to Paris via Dijon and Auxerre and culminates on the war-torn streets of central Paris.
This film is lively and active - there are good ideas - though all is not funny. Gérard Oury is a superior director and though he has produced far better efforts, such as Le Corniaud or Rabbi Jacob, it is still a pleasure to watch this film as our two heroes wend their way towards Paris. In fact the film is a satire of all the characters in France at that time - the revolting students, the CRS and the police, the rich French thinking it was the end of the world and trying to flee the country with their wealth stashed away in their cars ( as personified by the couple of the much loved Jean-Pierre Darras and his wife ). The great Raymond Bussières, one of the funniest of all, plays Pierre Richard's father and has a whale of a time sliding down stair rails in apartment buildings.
The film is a little pedantic with the political portrayal of each of the main heroes - Richard is supposed to be a gauchiste or left wing extremist and Lanoux is supposed to have fascistic ideas, although it should be said that for French people, the word "fascist" is often used to mean simply anything that ISN'T Left Wing so too much importance should not be paid to this by foreign viewers.
But on an entertainment level, one cannot accuse the film of being boring, there's always something interesting happening, including lovely ladies doing stripteases on the side of the road and causing pile-ups, although the plot itself, in my humble opinion, is far less well constructed and less meaningful than in many other Oury films.
The film has recently been issued in France as part of a two DVD set of Pierre Richard films, the other film being " Le Coup du Parapluie", a far superior and much funnier film starring the late Goert Froebe !