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Fanfan la Tulipe

1 rating: 4.0
A movie

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Genre: Action, Comedy, Adventure
Release Date: July 21, 2006
MPAA Rating: Unrated
1 review about Fanfan la Tulipe

Fanfan wins Adeline and beats his enemies...including Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut

  • Apr 22, 2011
Rating:
+4
The lights dim and we’re told at the start of Fanfan la Tulipe, "Once upon a time there was a charming land called France.... People lived happily then. The women were easy and the men indulged in their favorite pastime: war, the only recreation of kings which the people could enjoy." The war in question was the Seven Year's War, and when it was noticed that there were more corpses of soldiers than soldiers, recruiters were sent out to replenish the ranks.
 
And so it was that Fanfan (Gerard Philipe), caught tumbling a farmer's daughter in a pile of hay, escapes marriage by enlisting in the Regiment d'Aquitane...but only by first believing his future as foretold by a gypsy, that he will win fame and fortune in His Majesty's uniform and will marry the King's daughter. Alas, Adeline (Gina Lollobrigida) is not a gypsy but the daughter of the regiment's recruiting sergeant.
 
When Fanfan charges away from the recruits, saber in hand to rescue a carriage under attack, who should be inside but the Marquise de Pompadour and...the King's daughter. Fanfan now is convinced he will marry high, despite the extremely low-cut blouses Adeline wears. She, in turn, will soon discover her own love for Fanfan.
 
We're in the middle of an irreverent movie of Fanfan's destiny, the ribald adventures of a sword-fighting scamp and rogue. There are escapes from hangings, swordfights on tile roofs, blundering battles, romantic escapes and more joyous derring do than you can imagine. What Fanfan lacks in polish he makes up for in irreverence and enthusiasm. He's a quick stepping swordsman and a fast-talking lover, but with such naïve belief in his destiny and such an optimistic nature, how can we not like him?
 
Gerard Philipe was a hugely popular, iconic stage and screen actor. He did most of his own stunts. He was handsome, athletic, graceful and charismatic. Men admired him and women dreamed about him. Francois Truffaut disparaged him constantly in the pages of Cahiers du Cinema. Philipe was dead at 36, seven years after Fanfan, of liver cancer. All of France mourned. Gina Lollobrigida as Adeline holds her own with him. It's not those low-cut blouses that do her acting. She's sharp, passionate, not quite innocent and no one's fool.
 
Fanfan la Tulipe just sings along with endless satiric action, pointed situations and good nature. Not to mention amusing, acerbic dialogue. After Adeline has taken steps to save Fanfan from hanging, she meets the king in his private quarters.
 
"Give me your pretty little hand," the king says.
 
"But my heart belongs to Fanfan," says Adeline.
 
"Who asks for your heart?" says the king. "All I ask for is a little pleasure."
 
"I'm a proper girl," says Adeline.
 
Says the king, "You owe my esteem to your merits. You love Fanfan? Then thank me. My whims enable you to show the greatest proof of your love, by betraying for his sake the loyalty you have sworn him."
 
Now this is clever writing.
 
Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut and the rest of the New Wave gang tended to detest popular movies as mere entertainment. Fanfan la Tulipe and its director, Christian-Jacques, were among their prime targets. They probably missed the point of Fanfan, which is a sophisticated, funny satire on the pointlessness of armies and war. How much better it must have seemed to make movies of angst and slow panning shots which only fellow cineastes could appreciate. Thank goodness some of them, Truffaut and Chabrol, for example, outgrew this childish condescension and came to recognize that a good movie is a good movie, whether the masses like it or just the cognoscenti. A smart person who enjoys movies can appreciate any, if the movies are well made. Those who condescend to a movie based on its degree of popularity are as childish as those who brag they've never read Harry Potter.
 
Jean-Luc Godard, eat your heart out. Viva Fanfan! 
Fanfan wins Adeline and beats his enemies...including Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut Fanfan wins Adeline and beats his enemies...including Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut Fanfan wins Adeline and beats his enemies...including Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut Fanfan wins Adeline and beats his enemies...including Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut

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