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21 February 2018

La Chèvre (1981)

The Goat
Directed by: Francis Veber
Starring: Pierre Richard, Gérard Depardieu, 
 Corynee Charbit, André Valardy, Michel Robin
I’d just forced my husband to watch Rangoon. When the film ended, he gave me a look that I felt even though I wasn’t looking at him. The next day, he picked up Le Chèvre from the library on the recommendation of his Russian girl friend (long story). He put that in, grumbling something about women and their choice of films and vowing vengeance on RGF if it turned out to be bad. I must confess that I wasn’t too keen but I was lying there anyway, so I watched.

La Chèvre opens with Marie Bens (Corynee Charbit), the only daughter of Alexandre Bens (Michel Robin), a wealthy French businessman, checking into the hotel in Mexico. She calls to let her father know she’s arrived safely. Only, watching a young man parasailing from her balcony, she manages to fall over the balustrade. Luckily for her, she lands on the awning. 
The next morning, she steps out of the hotel, only to be robbed of her handbag by a couple of men on a motorbike. Falling down, she barely manages to avoid being hit by a car. The car’s driver gets out, ostensibly to help her, but puts her into his car and takes off. 
The next time we see Marie, she’s at the airport at Acapulco, her long blonde hair now jet black and short. And she seems totally zoned out. Drugged? Concussed? We don’t know. But Marie being Marie, she walks straight into the glass doors of the airport and is taken to the infirmary.  
From there, her travelling partner hastens her out of the airport and into a waiting car before the security guard can do anything much. And that’s the last anyone hears of Marie.

A month and a half have passed and Monsieur Bens is beside himself with grief. His daughter has disappeared without a trace. He’s had the best detective in France down in Mexico looking for her trail, but not one lead has turned up. If she had been kidnapped, it was strange that there had not been a ransom demand. He fears she’s dead.
The company psychologist, Meyer (André Valardy) is more optimistic. Marie, in his opinion, is the unluckiest girl he knew. If there was trouble around, it found her. Her guardian angel, Meyer ventures, has had so much work with her that he’s got to be an expert by now. They have to trust him!

He comes up with a unique idea – in Msr. Bens’s company is an accountant by name, François Perrin (Pierre Richard). He, Meyer, had been keeping an eye on Perrin ever since he joined the company. Perrin is accident-prone. Perhaps he should be sent to look for Marie. Meyer’s theory is that whatever happened to Marie would also happen to Perrin – and perhaps that way, they would be able to trace the girl. 

Msr. Bens is not fully convinced, but he’s at the end of his tether and this is his last hope. So he calls in his detective, Campana (Gérard Depardieu), who is aghast at what he considers a cockamamie idea. 
Campana had spent 42 days in Mexico, trying to find something, anything, about Marie’s disappearance. And now, he’s supposed to take this klutz to Mexico and follow him around while he ‘deduces’ and ‘investigates’?

Despite his chagrin, Campana gives in to Msr.Ben’s grief-stricken desperation. And so, the staid, serious Campana is forced to be subordinate to a man who thinks he has a gift for deduction. Thus begin their adventures…
La Chèvre is possibly the dumbest French movie I have ever seen, but the gags – even a chair collapsing under Perrin – work. The film is based on a wildly simplistic conceit that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, but since it doesn't take itself seriously, you really don't want to scrutinise it that carefully anyway.
Perrin, played with deadpan humour by Pierre Richard, is that clumsiest of men – if there’s a hole in the ground, he’ll fall into it; if there’s a door in front, he will walk into it; if there’s trouble to find, he’ll find it. 
He's probably the only man in the world who has been electrocuted by an orange juicer. Alas, he doesn’t know he’s unlucky. In fact, in one joyously ironic scene, he consoles Campana, ‘You’ve been unlucky so far, but with me, that will change.’
Campana (Depardieu, looking for all the world like his hardily-won control will snap any moment) doesn’t believe in luck – bad or good. He believes in logic, in reason. Until… he discovers that Perrin's 'bad luck' seems to be rubbing off on him!

La Chèvre is a delightfully farcical slapstick that works simply because of these two men. Depardieu’s expressions say more than the dialogues he mouths, and the action-reaction sequences are a superb laugh riot. 
Add a Mexican gangster, a gambling den, an avaricious prostitute, a surprised gorilla (don't ask!) to this mix, and I don’t think I’ve laughed so much in recent months.

Score: Wife – 0; Russian girl friend – 1.

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