Blu-Ray Review: The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe (1973)

Film Movement Classics

This the first title I’ve had the pleasure of seeing from Film Movement Classics, which is a new imprint from Film Movement, which specializes in restorations of repertory titles. Recently, Film Movement, which first came to my attention for its film-of-the-month club, has been expanding its brand. First, came Ram Releasing with its focus on genre cinema, namely horror thus far. Then came Omnibus Entertainment which has a broader genre view as cited here. It’s an exciting time and bringing back older films, in new glorious restorations and transfers to an audience that mat not have know the film is the kind of important work you’d expect a company like Film Movement to do as they tend to unearth gems no matter what banner it flies under.

The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe

The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe (1972, Film Movement Classics)

The film in question is Yves Robert’s 1972 espionage farce The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe (Le grand blond avec une chaussure noir), my lack of familiarity with this film, and my subsequent admiration for it after having seen it, prove the above statements to be true and not merely lip service. Without Film Movement Classics launching I may not have even heard of this film much less gotten a chance to see it so that’s victory in and of itself. The fact that it’s an exquisitely crafted comedy whose gags are fairly smart, well-executed, and continue to roll without being an encumbrance to the plot are a massive bonus.

The film is positively hilarious and takes a fairly simple concept of mistaken identity, in this case rather fabricated one, as the man in question is the subject of scrutinous investigations by chance; an innocent caught in the crossfire of a professional rivalry between high-ranking spies. It also manages to do that and keep François (Pierre Richard) blissfully oblivious such that it not only makes it impossible to pity his situation but also renders those who believe is what he’s purported to be (a spy) seem further buffoonish.

The film works sight gags in a fashion that is eternally accessible and hilarious, and does indeed make gorgeous use of visual storytelling from Parisian backdrops, to instrument-adorned apartment walls, ornate opera houses and spy offices.

Add to that the catchy, cheeky score by Vladimir Cosma, the physical virtuosity of Pierre Richard, and the clockwork precision of the script crafted by Yves Robert and Francis Veber and you have an unqualified comedic success.

Bonus Features

The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe (1972, Film Movement)

The bonus features aren’t plentiful but they are well done. Aside from being able to take a glimpse at the movie marketing of another time and country with the film’s trailer there are trailers of other Film Movement offerings that are worth considering.

In an age when physical media is fighting for survival its rarer than ever to see packaging that goes a little above and beyond, but this disc is definitely one of those. It also includes a booklet with other Film Movement titles, but more noticeably there is one featuring a wonderfully written essay by Nick Pinkerton with a lot of great insights and information that I dare not spoil here.

Conclusion

Those who know the film will re-discover it in a gorgeous 2K restoration, and those who are discovering it for the first time will see the best possible version of it to first take it in. If you are a fan of spy films or just like a good laugh this newly re-released title is one to get familiar with.

Underrated Dramas: France

Introduction

Recently I decided to partake in another great theme going on at Rupert Pupkin Speaks. The last list I did there was for the Underrated Comedies series. As I anticipated, there was far more competition among movies I like to make the dramas list than the comedies list. So much so that I decided to post ancillary lists here before the big list debuts there. I wasn’t able to get all the contenders onto these lists but I was able to feature the most competitive regions (foreign films were one of my main foci). This is my first list.

Underrated Dramas: France

One criteria that I tried to hold steadfastly to when creating the list submitted to Rupert Pupkin Speaks was that I wanted to avoid including “big directors.” Essentially, I wanted to try and find as obscured a film as possible that doesn’t deserve that fate. Hence, if a director is known the world over by his last name alone long after he has passed such title was usually omitted. One such director (François Truffaut) finds his way onto this list because of how staggeringly great I find one of his titles to be, how simultaneously like and unlike the rest of his works it is. Aside from that the rest of the list I think adheres fairly close to what I set out to do. There is one title that dabbles in myriad genre I feel and I’ll discuss it below.

La gloire de mon père/Le château de ma mère (My Father’s Glory/My Mother’s Castle) (1990)

My Mother's Castle (1990, Gaumont)

The way I figure it if you’re going to fudge selections, or it can be claimed that you are, you may as well start at the top. When I had these films listed I knew it’d be impossible to break them up. While you can watch one without the other, they are truly companion pieces. Here Yves Robert lovingly adapts the novels by Marcel Pagnol of simple childhood idyll in Provence roundabout the turn of the century. It’s not a wonder the series of novels is entitled “memories of childhood,” there is that reflective, glorified tinge to the most commonplace occurrence that makes the films radiate with warmth. With each title focusing more on one parent it really is impossible to pick one over the other for a list though I am inclined to say I like the former more. However, they ought to be viewed in the order listed above.

8 Femmes (8 Women) (2002)

8 Women (2002, Canal +)

Here’s another case where I can be said to be shoehorning a selection. Ultimately, these are some of the reasons these titles didn’t make the final list, but they are worthy of their attention here. It can be said that 8 Women plays in a number of genres: it’s unquestionably a musical, it’s also quite comedic, but there is a murder mystery aspect to much of it that brings skeletons out of everyone’s closet making it play out like a chamber drama in its straight moments. One way in which it qualifies as underrated is that while it certainly racked up many honors like 12 César nominations, it had no wins there; and while I lost my nomination records from 2003, I know it was much nominated there and only won one award (Best Song). It’s fairly different in some regards from Ozon’s other films, but in others quite similar, and definitely worth checking out.

Le Grand Chemin (The Grand Highway) (1987)

Le Grand Chemin (1987, Miramax)

As I have a tendency to do, some films will be references multiple times on this site. This is one of them. Having already written extensively, albeit in-depth, about this film in a series of posts (starting here); I’ll only add here, in very non-spoiler ways, that this film portrays three people in flux (a couple and a child), treats them with respect, as equal persons going through similar things at different stages of their life. This film also had the misfortune of being the subject of a watered-down American remake, which means the original deserves to have attention drawn to it.

La chambre verte (The Green Room) (1978)

The Green Room (1978, Les Films du Carrosse)

Here’s Truffaut’s selection on this list. I griped in the past about how this should be on DVD and was glad when it was, but I don’t necessarily think its profile has been elevated to where it should be. I’m rounding out my Truffaut filmography, but if you watch a few of his movies you very quickly get a sense for his milieu and his wheelhouse. That’s why it’s so brilliant to see him take an essentially Bergmanesque character who is preoccupied with death, portray him himself and also put his warm, humanist spin on it. For further thoughts you van visit the link above.

Mauvaises Frequentations (Bad Company )(1999)

Bad Company (1999, Pyramide)

If you become a fan of a particular foreign-bron actor, as I am of Robinson Stévenin, you may find their filmography sporadically available in the US. Every once in a while I’ve played catch up on his works. However, this film is much more than a personal showcase. It’s a disturbing and gritty tale of obsession, lust and greed that was one of the best films I saw in 2001, when it made its way here.