Les Comperes (1983)

“Try sending him a dozen roses.”

In the French comedy Les Comperes, teenager Tristan (Stephane Bierry) runs away from home. His mother Christine (Anny Duperey) is distraught and decides that the police aren’t taking her son’s disappearance seriously. She also feels that her husband Paul (Michel Aumont) is ineffectual in the search, and so she turns to an ex-beau, journalist “the Caveman” Jean Lucas (Gerard Depardieu) for help. Knowing that Jean won’t help for purely altruistic reasons, Christine concocts a plan and tells Jean that Tristan is his son. When he doesn’t take the bait, she turns to another ex-boyfriend, the perennially suicidal and depressive Francois Pignon (Pierre Richard) and tells him that he’s Tristan’s father.

Now while the premise of the film may now not sound that funny, in practice Les Comperes is quite amusing. Soon there are these two confirmed bachelors chasing after a boy they each think they fathered. Jean Lucas and Francois Pignon make an unlikely team–Jean is a confident, brash, aggressive lothario, devoted to his career, and Francois is a mild-mannered, hapless man who lives with his mother. But funnily enough even though both men are complete opposites, they do share some characteristics–both men are equally self-absorbed and equally enamored with the idea that somewhere on the planet they have a son–and of course, they both dive into the father role with gusto, exaggeration, and the idea they’ve somehow managed to manufacture miniature versions of themselves.

Meanwhile Christine has to explain to her confused hubbie just who these two men are, and who really fathered Tristan. The film manages to successfully exploit a great deal of the reaction of these two men to the news of their delayed fatherhood and translate it effectively in this light, comic script. As the film continues, these two new “fathers” become competitive with one another, and this spurs them on in their quest. Like many French comedies, the film possesses a strong element of slapstick and farce–nothing too sophisticated here, and some of the jokes fall flat. But, if you can get over the absurdity of Christine creating this situation in the first place, then it’s a decent escapist film with a biker gang and casino mob hit men thrown into the bargain. Directed by Francis Veber, Les Comperes is unfortunately not nearly as good as a more recent film The Closet but if you’re a fan of Depardieu, chances are you’ll enjoy it. In French with English subtitles.

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Filed under Comedy, France, Gerard Depardieu

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