Another one that I’ve been meaning to immortalize on Picturenose for some time – no word of a lie, this is among the funniest films ever made and its hilarity is in large part due to the fact that it is in French, rather than in spite of it. Not interested? Allow me to convince you otherwise…
A little history – Le dîner de cons (1998) was originally created by writer-director Francis Veber (Tais toi! (2003)) as a stage play back in 1993. Then, as in the film, François Pignon, the central ‘con’ (which translates as jerk, idiot and, in fact, a much stronger four-letter word) was played by Jacques Villeret, who sadly passed away, aged only 53, in 2005.
Due to its stage origins, the film is very theatrical, but this matters not a jot, as the laughs are there in spades.
Thierry Lhermitte plays Pierre Brochant, a renowned Parisian publisher who, every Wednesday, takes part in the ‘dinner for idiots’ of the title. The rules are simple – similarly successful businessmen are invited to bring an idiot to the meal, for the Roman pleasure of mocking the assembled cretins, who are entirely unaware as to the real reason they have been invited. At the meal’s climax, the purveyor of the champion ‘con’ wins a prize. Thanks to the last-minute intervention of one of Brochant’s many ‘talent scouts’, Pignon comes into Brochant’s orbit, as the publisher convinces him that he wants to discuss a possible book project concerning Pignon’s obsessive matchstick-model making. Unfortunately, Brochant slips a disc playing golf, angers his beautiful wife Christine (Alexandra Vandernoot), who storms out of the apartment, and is told by his doctor that he must rest the injury, or be on his back for three weeks. It looks like the dinner’s off, but Brochant had invited Pignon to come to his apartment before the evening begins – big mistake.
At the risk of getting all cosmopolitan at this point, the more fluent your understanding of French, the better you will enjoy this. Whatever you do, DON’T watch the dubbed version (available on some of the DVD releases), but trust instead to subtitles. Central to the comedy’s success are the linguistic games that are played out between Lhermitte and Villeret (who are both superb) and these can only truly work in their original language.
And, despite the cruelty inherent to the concept, Veber and Villeret nevertheless manage to bring a near-Shakespearean dimension to the idea of the fool – Pignon has more than a few tricks up his sleeve and, unlike Brochant at the film’s outset, his heart is overwhelmingly in the right place, and the same goes for the movie as a whole, which combines with charmingly self-deprecatory swipes at the French and their culture – such as the scene in which the characters find that adding vinegar to a Chateau Lafitte 1978 gives it extra body. ‘C’est bon savoir, hein?’
Don’t be a con – book yourself a seat.
87 mins. In French.