by guest writer
La Grande vadrouille (I won’t use the uninspired English translation of the title) assembles a wonderful comedy cast of great European talents such as Louis de Funès, Bourvil and Terry-Thomas. It bears the signature of Gérard Oury, a French director that started out in business as an actor. He eventually became a director and this 1966 movie is one of his many to come with Louis de Funès. I think La grande vadrouille is the best WWII comedy the European ever produced. Augustin Bouvet (Bourvil) has his small façades painting business until one day when the inevitable happens: an English pilot lands on his scaffold. Stanislas Lefort (Louis de Funès) is always on ‘the edge’ as an orchestra conductor at the local opera house. Bourvil and de Funès form such a comic partnership that you can’t stop laughing throughout the entire film as you follow them on their mad race across occupied France.
The screenplay was written by Oury himself and I must say that the intelligent dialogue doesn’t leave the movie until its very end. Photographed by Jean Renoir’s collaborator and nephew, Claude Renoir, La grande vadrouille recreates a bygone era with such a dynamic and constant movement and vibrant colours. The humour is always sharp even when you’re least expecting it. There are moments when Louis’ performance reminds me of such silent movie stars as Harold Lloyd and Charles Chaplin, through his charismatic and silent ability to stir up laughter without even saying a word.
photo: still from the film | credit: Les Films Corona, The Rank Organisation