Le Bossu

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Le Bossu
"The story has all the ingredients of a swashbuckling 17th century adventure."

The French are rather good at this kind of thing, unlike the Americans, who have a passion for Musketeers, only to spoof them. Cyrano de Bergerac and La Reine Margot were momentuous movies by anyone's standard. Le Bossu is not in the same league, partly because Daniel Auteuil is miscast as the dashing swordsman who saves a Duke's baby, but also because Philippe de Broca's style is closer to pantomime than classic costume drama.

The story has all the ingredients of a swashbuckling 17th century adventure. Lagardere (Auteuil), brought up by fencing masters in Paris, is hired by the scheming Count Gonzague (Fabrice Luchini), with an assorted band of cutthroats, to murder his cousin, the Duke of Nevers (Vincent Perez).

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Lagardere has great respect for the Duke's swordsmanship and warns him of the plot, after which the two ride off to a castle in the hills, chased by Gonzague's gang, where the Duke plans to marry Blanche of Caylus (Claire Nebout), who has recently given birth to their child. After a bloody massacre, Lagardere finds himself on the run, with the baby, having sworn to avenge the atrocity.

The baby grows up to become Aurore (Marie Gillain), a beautiful, spirited young woman. Lagardere, meanwhile, looks the same. Age doesn't appear to have touched him. Nor Blanche, for that matter, who survived the massacre and now lives in Gonzague's mansion as a recluse (she should be mad, but isn't). Lagardere disguises himself as a hunchback to enter the villain's employ, make contact with Blanche, who thinks her daughter is dead, and plot Gonzague's downfall.

The design is sumptuous, the locations breathtaking and the horses well groomed. Auteuil is a character actor (superb as Yves Montand's idiot nephew in Jean de Florette and Manon Des Sources), not the Errol Flynn of Gallic cinema (why does a left-handed fencer in the 17th century look wrong?). If he and Perez had swopped roles, it would have fitted de Broca's romantic vision far better, except Auteuil comes into his own as the hunchback (meaty comic character acting). Perez conveys aristocratic arrogance with enough panache to be sympathetic and Gillain is delightful.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Swashbuckling in 17th century France.
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Director: Philippe de Broca

Writer: Philippe de Broca, Jean Cosmos, Jerome Tonnerre

Starring: Daniel Auteuil, Fabrice Luchini, Vincent Perez, Claire Nebout, Marie Gillain

Year: 1997

Runtime: 128 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France

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