Francis Veber’s Comedy Classic La Chévre comes to Blu-Ray with a 2K Restoration, from Kino Lorber.
I’ll say it here and I’ll say it in my next review. Someone really needs to write a book, hell it may end up being me, called Lost in Translation: The Films of Francis Veber and their Americanalbalized Remakes. I know you like the clever title, especially the “Americanalbalized” wordplay. Though it is a salient point to make that many of Veber’s biggest works were translated into American films that lost a lot because of the core design and construction. Literally, what made them so special was “lost in translation”. Of course, there are exceptions to that rule but not in this case’s “Americanalbalized” counterpart*.
The film’s plot is too delicious to pass up. Pairing a gruff Private Detective (Gérard Depardieu) with a man with the worst luck in the world (Pierre Richard) to find a Billionaire’s Daughter (Corynne Charbit) who’s gone missing in Mexico, who also has the worst luck in the world. What Veber gets right is the mixture of tones. The physical comedy, think Jacque Tati by way of Jerry Lewis, of Richard’s character butting heads quite literally with Depardieu’s Hardboiled, think Mike Hammer, Detective character. The results are hilarious and enough of a commentary on not just fate (good and bad), friendship, and work that it’s an overstuffed meal of a film at just over 93 minutes.
It’s that tricky tonal shift that Veber handles so well throughout his work. Here is no exception. There’s a deadpan to everything that’s the throughline. The way that things play out even the breakdowns between the characters are never overplayed. It’s that tone that makes it all the funnier. It helps that Richard and Depardieu are entirely different performers that rub each other the wrong way – in the best way possible. Veber and the stars make the film work like a well-choreographed dance that ebbs and flows between the comedic and detective troupes that allows for a meta-commentary on the genres themselves without ever calling too much attention to it.
La Chévre at its end is a wonderful piece of comedy that can and does end exactly how it should. In fact, the final moment is almost too perfect. So perfect that the “Americanalbalized” version Pure Luck, ruins that final moment with an added bit that never needed to be added but ruins the subtly of the entire enterprise. La Chévre proves as always that one must always side with the original at least with the filmography of Francis Veber.
* I am not prone to do this anymore (yes, I used to do a lot of appendices and sub notes, thinking I was some sort of David Foster Wallace clone) but this does need explaining. The one instance is Birdcage / La Cage Aux Foles – which Veber wrote. Though when you have Mike Nichols and Elaine May as your creatives with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane at the height of their powers… it’s hard to argue that both and maybe Birdcage works more than the original. If only we got the sequel with Williams and Lane on the run from the Mob. If only…
The beautiful 2K Restoration by Gaumont! provided to Kino Lorber is another winner from both Studio and Label. The image is healthy and verbose with a wonderful patina of film grain that gives the transfer the look of a freshly printed 35mm print.
They include the following;
- NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historians Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson
- Theatrical Trailer
The all-new Audio Commentary by Film Historians Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson begins with the fact that this film is a part of a Veber trilogy (La Chévre, Les Compéres, and Les Fugitifs) and all three were remade into American films. Some of the details include the original French title – and its meaning both literal and cultural; the work of the composer of the film Vladimir Cosma – both here and in his filmography; a spiritual kinship to the work of Blake Edwards; a larger discussion about the remake Pure Luck – what makes this film work and why the remake does not; the cosmic joke and existential dread that Veber imbues in the entire film – and a larger discussion about the comedy of it; the work of Gérard Depardieu in the film – and how big this film was for him; the work of Pierre Richard in the film; the style and tone of the film and how Veber constructs the film; a discussion of the work of Veber – including a discussion about Three Fugitives which Veber directed himself; the way that the film is constructed to its ending moment – a way that Verber, Richard, and Depardieu work towards that in the film; and much more. Berger and Thompson give a great informative track for this very special film.
Rounding out the special features are trailers for La Chévre (2:22), Les Compères (2:02), A Pain in the Ass [L’emmerdeur] (1:44)
The Final Thought
Kino Lorber has done right by La Chévre giving it great picture, sound, and special features. Recommended!!!