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The lost movie of the week: Drôle de drame (1937)

Michel Simon was a curious man. A man known for his eccentricities. He lived with his pet monkey’s for whom he constructed tunnels under his house so that they could run freely around the house. The most famous line in this film is therefore perfect suitable for him: “Bizarre, Bizarre,”. But and foremost he was a man of incredible talent. He had the looks of an old hermit and the body of a bear; he still was a great actor. This comedy is a testament to his abilities.

Set in Victorian London, the botanist Irwin Molyneux and his wife Margaret Molyneux are trying to keep people from finding out they are bankrupted. After a dinner goes south the couple decides to o go missing in order to hide from their sanctimonious cousin.

Based on an obscure English book (His First Offence by Joseph Storer Clouston), the film is a fantastic mix of English humor, French vaudeville and theatre.  Shot in a beautiful black-and-white the film is an intense adventure with over the top writing and an absurd premise. Louis Jouvet is incredible as the rigid; hypocrite cousin who suspects his Irwin (Michel Simon) of killing his wife. Françoise Rosay plays the wife who is so afraid people would discover she is bankrupt that she deliberately goes missing. An incredible power play by Rosay. But the main act of the film is of course Michel Simon, who plays a dual character who is afraid of his cousin and does everything wrong. Michel Simon has always been a great actor which led him to lift the script of every film to new highs. Marcel Carné keeps a high intensity on this feature. Even though it is a comedy, Carné keeps a sort of suspense during the whole film which is admirable. The humor is center in this story and we have the writer to thank for this Jacques Prévert. The famous French poet wrote a film with classical lines like: « À force d’écrire des choses horribles les choses horribles finissent par arriver » or  « Moi j’ai dit bizarre ? Comme c’est bizarre».

A film that in line with the tradition of French Vaudeville and combined it with a more modern humor. A true masterpiece of French comedy.

Stanley Berenboom

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