2 November 2015 | dbdumonteil
If I were the boss
Richard Pottier is generally disdained by the official French intelligentsia :it's certainly unfair.All his works were made with care for he never despised his audience .Certainly many of his movies are dispensable (mainly after 1950),but the best are easily commendable and it's to these that the reviews must address themselves :"le Monde Tremblera" (1939,what an ominous title!) was very original sci-fi -a machine could tell the date of your death,a great potential screenplay nobody used again;"Caroline Chérie"(1950) which paved a reliable way to the Angelique saga in the sixties ;"Meurtres" the first French movie which showed euthanasia -a whole scene with Fernandel(!) "relieving" his suffering wife" .Last but not least ,"fanfare d'amour" (1935) was remade by Billy Wilder as "some like it hot".
"Si J'Etais Le Patron " (1934) ,Pottier's first real movie features Fernand Gravey ,the future star of "Fanfare D'Amour ",and as the "Dictionnaire Des Films " ironically notices -without giving a single star to the film- ,was made to cheer the French people up,in the middle of the economic slump.Perhaps so :but this is a very entertaining comedy,well acted,with plenty of funny lines from start to finish.
So much for the first scene :the concierge is angry with her tenant,young worker (and inventor) Henri."Don't worry ,he says ,pretty soon,I'll treat you to caviar.-What's that?-I don't know,but it must be good ,cause it's luxury." Mistaken for an agitator in the factory ,Henri is summoned to the boss's office ;then follows a hilarious scene in which Henri does believe that he is here to be congratulated for his invention:an improbable gadget which makes the cars and motorcars silent,a feat the official engineer has never been able to accomplish,in spite of desperate efforts .
Because he is friend with a major shareholder,Henri becomes boss for one day:some of the details forecast 1936: the boss and the executives get too high wages ;some are relevant today:one of the executives ,a traitor to his plant,lets himself bribed so that the concurrence can control the market;some are naive :if the workers work to music,productivity will be better ,why not after all?
Pottier is very good at depicting the secondary characters :the shareholder who stammers ;the unfortunate engineer who clumsily woos the lovely secretary (Mireille Balin,one of the two French femmes Fatales of the era -alongside Ginette Leclerc- in one of her rare part of a nice girl:she does not always seem at ease);the English Customer and the dialogue of the deaf in which the writers play with the English verb "to sit" and the colloquial French word " Sissite " The factory party is also a good moment,with Gravey pulling his little tune,with fine harmonies by his pals,but Pottier luckily, ,had the necessary irreverence to puncture the performance by Pierre Larquey's sneeze.