Thursday, 29 April 2010

Tais-Toi! (2003)

I must confess that I knew nothing at all about this French film before choosing it as a 'makeweight' on a foreign-language DVD offer, but it is undoubtedly one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. I was initially attracted by the pairing of lead actors Gerard Depardieu and Jean Reno, but I should have realised that I was in for a treat when I saw that it was made by writer-director Francis Veber. He has been responsible for a string of hilarious farces including "The Dinner Game" (1998), currently being remade Stateside with a rather ruder title, and "The Closet" (2001). The film is also known as "Ruby and Quentin" and by the translation of its title, "Shut Up!".

Veber's scenarios often feature a mismatched pair of protagonists and such is the case here. A surprisingly thin-line Depardieu plays a simple-minded thief with the look of a gurning idiot. While being chased by the police after holding up an exchange bureau which offers him yen rather than euros, he takes refuge in a cinema where "Ice Age" is playing; there he sits like a lumbering, laughing lummox surrounded by little kids until the cops drag him away. Reno in contrast plays his usual hard man, a taciturn killer and thief who has ripped off Vogel, a gangster who has just murdered his wife (who was Reno's lover). In prison where Depardieu has driven all of his previous cellmates gaga with his incessant nattering, they end up sharing a cell. Taking Reno's silence for genuine interest, Depardieu believes that he has finally made a friend and dreams of opening a bar with him in his hometown of Montargis. Also, having once worked at a stables, Depardieu just loves Reno's horse-like, plaintive eyes! Reno, meanwhile, thinks that Depardieu must be an undercover cop, planted on him to drive him crazy and to get him to reveal the whereabouts of the 20 million he has stolen.

When Reno plans to escape to kill Vogel, he cuts his wrists to get to the prison hospital and then to the prison psychiatric unit, but dimbo Depardieu follows suit to stay near his friend. With Reno's escape plan in progress via a bent prison nursing assistant, Depardieu intervenes shoving them both into the cage of a crane being manoevred on the other side of the prison wall by a very drunk acquaintance. From thereon we are treated to a comic chase with the prison authorities and the police in hot pursuit, involving a selection of stolen cars (two of them belonging to Vogel), several police cars, and any other vehicle Depardieu can attempt to wire. Also since they were wearing prison pyjamas and bathrobes when they escaped, they have to try to find new clothes and money. Their first attempt at a novelty store yields only 15 euros, a whoopee cushion, and a cow-mooing device which enchants the simple Depardieu. At the house of a wee retired jockey whose clothing is too small for them, they find their first new wardrobe, in drag, thanks to the jockey's outsized, towering wife.

All the while Reno is attempting to rid himself of the leech-like Depardieu who good naturedly hangs on, looking after the former's various injuries including a dislocated shoulder and a gunshot wound, incurred during the course of their adventures. How Vogel eventually gets his comeuppance and how Reno reluctantly but inevitably warms to Depardieu's man-child is all part of the fun. The supporting cast is this side of superior, especially Andre Dussolier as the prison psychiatrist trying to get through to Reno and failing to restrain the unrestrainable Depardieu. This film is very warmly and very highly recommended for all that ails you!
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