I eventually tracked down this movie only after I had read René Fallet's original and colourful novel. My main prejudice was always about Jean Lefebvre in the lead: he was never a good actor, only funny on the very narrow range of a weeping loser background character - supporting character actually demands real acting skills.
I was also curious about Un Idiot à Paris after watching some delightfully worded scenes posted on YouTube, or edited into that excellent documentary about the great dialogue writer, Michel Audiard et le Mystère du Triangle des Bermudes. Yes Dany Carel and Bernard Blier shine in a couple of Audiard trademark rants. Yves Robert is great also in another scene, but this one was actually in the book and is only a rare example of a fine adaptation work in the movie.
Indeed these Audiard rants are simply out of pace in an already badly paced adaptation. The first few scenes, actually a narration disjointed in vignettes, introducing Goubi before he goes to Paris, are just a total failure. They miss the point of setting the countryside reference to the journey. Ironically Yves Robert is around for a couple of minutes as I mentioned, and he did know how to shoot the countryside to express what makes people free and happy there. As such the movie starts off with the ideas that countrymen are restless thick people whereas the point of the story is showing a poor naive character lost in the frantic Parisian merry-go-round.
Serge Korber was never a good director either, and yet he was handed material with potential, starting with this movie and ending with vehicles for top stars de Funès and Girardot - which bombed, prompting a somewhat disillusioned porn stint. The young director's assignment excuse doesn't stick since his name is listed as a writer too. A good example of a poor director's job is how Korber directed André Pousse in his debut as a rude cab driver. Audiard had chiselled a fine rant for his friend, the monologue is funny, but Pousse is simply given too little direction to make this look good.
Above all most of the harm comes from casting Jean Lefebvre as the lead. Whoever pushed the idea forward simply didn't understand that playing a dumb character requires a very talented actor (think Rain Man, Forrest Gump), not just one that already looks dumb. Bourvil comes to mind here but he was certainly too expensive. Fernandel was too old but the part here is not too dissimilar to the one he had in Le Schpountz - an obvious reference in the novel when Parisians on holiday talk Goubi into believing he would be a sensation at the Olympia concert hall.
It is difficult to recommend this movie. You can enjoy the best parts elsewhere, yet these Audiard tidbits do little if anything to lift the movie out of its utter mediocrity. To see Bernard Blier, Dany Carel wasted in this missed opportunity is really painful as the story hops along with other fine supporting characters including Yves Robert, Jean Carmet, André Pousse and Pierre Richard.
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