Low Culture Lives!
|Gigi (Marie-Anne Chazel) shows off her new boob job in Les Bronzés 3.
The big event in France this past week has been the opening of Les Bronzés 3: Amis pour la Vie. This is one of those French cultural phenomena that is difficult for outsiders to understand. Mention Les Bronzés to French people and their eyes light up with laughter as they recount one of their favorite moments from the first two films, Les Bronzés and Les Bronzés Font du Ski, which respectively recount the adventures of the same group of people on holiday in a Club Med-style resort in Africa and on a skiing vacation in France.
These mildly amusing films (the first one was an often spot-on satire of Club Med) created enduring character types and helped make stars out of the troupe of actors who created the original play. Michel Blanc was the unattractive loser, pathetically desperate to get laid; Josiane Balasko the long-suffering wife of the philandering, bad-tempered Gérard Jugnot; Thierry Lhermitte the athletic pretty boy who sleeps with all the women; Christian Clavier the egomaniacal doctor in embarrassingly skimpy thong bathing trunks, Marie-Anne Chazel the sweet blond bimbo.
One of the reasons these mediocre films have sunk so deeply into the French collective conscious is that they have been rerun so many times on prime-time television that just about every person in France of every age can identify one or both of the films with a particular moment in their lives. Although the first one came out in 1978 and the second a year later, young people who weren’t even born at the time often approached the actors in the street and begged them to made a sequel.
Unfortunately, that is just what they have done. Nearly 30 years later, the same actors (and director, Patrice Leconte) are back, looking every bit their middle age. The publicity machine has been working full time for this much-anticipated comeback, and the reviews have mostly been kind. The film, however, is a disaster. Self-consciously striving to re-create the gentle silliness of the earlier versions, it bombards us with juvenile gags (the children in the audience were enthralled) and, worse, bores us in the process.
The Bronzés films do serve one purpose: they provide consolation to intimidated foreigners who believe that all French people are sophisticated intellectuals. The truth is that low culture lives in France, especially when it comes to humor. As is often noted, this is the country that worshipped Jerry Lewis’s worst antics and thought Benny Hill a god.
Let’s hope the Bronzés crew decides to let the group of holiday friends go gracefully into old age offscreen.
© 2008 Paris Update
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