An unimpressive but well intending man is given the chance to marry a popular actress, of whom he has been a hopeless fan. But what he doesn't realize is that he is being used to make the actress' old flame jealous.
Buster Garnier is having a very bad day, even by his standards. First of all he manages to lose his job distributing flyers for a car company when he accidentally hands out packets of real notes instead of the false money-off vouchers; then he blunders into a stage performance at the theatre where his mother is prompt, and gets thrown out there too. Methodically, he drapes a black band across his own portrait, writes a last note to his mother, bids farewell to his pets one by one, switches on the gas tap, and composes himself calmly on the floor to await oblivion. But Life hasn't had its last laugh at his expense just yet... Meanwhile, across town, a scarred and ruthless gangster is preparing to break out of jail. Unknown to either man, the two of them are almost exactly alike; and when Buster finds himself on stage in the role of a jail-bird, fact and fiction are about to get extremely confused!Written by
Buster Keaton did not speak French, so his dialog in this Paris-made talkie was dubbed by an actor whose vocal pitch was an incongruous tenor. In one scene with Colette Darfeuil (who played Simone) the dubbing engineer missed a line, and we can plainly hear Buster say "Go get me a drink" in English, in his distinctive gravelly voice. See more »
Someone in France must have thought to exploit the potential of Buster as a schlemiel and a comic mime (which is his character in a nutshell, no?). Certainly this movie respects and uses him better than, say, "What, No Beer?" He is the central character and he gets a chance to run & look beleaguered, but the film lacks any sort of brilliance or madcap inventiveness, except in little details where Buster may have been adlibbing. It's worth seeking out for Keaton fans, for a few reasons: Buster gets to speak French (though he is speaking the lines, his voice is dubbed with a sort of scratchy French voice -- except at one point where his actual voice says "Ouvrir la porte!"); he gets to play a bad guy, an escaped American gangster who leads a chase for the "good" Buster & who shoots cops as he flees them (a surreal perversion of Buster's usual dilemma); and, probably the strangest sight, which comes just before the final fade (to "Fin") where Buster gets the girl, says "Oh, Baby!" and breaks into a big grin. Keaton fans can just imagine how odd it is to see that smileless face (& he remains stonefaced throughout the movie) lighten up and show how happy he is. The fact that this film is in unsubtitled French isn't too much of a drawback, since its sense is conveyed through action. Buster gets to dissolve societal order into chaos at least three times (he tosses away 5 million francs, he gets caught in a knight's helmet & disrupts a stage show, and he leads the cops & gangsters onto the stage of a very boring play, where they shoot each other & the stodgy orchestra, and rouses the audience from its lethargy). Some have said that this movie might have revived Keaton's career from its 1930's abyss, but I don't think so; the acting is too European and the setting is obviously not America, yet it's commonplace, rather than "exotic." It's true that Buster looks good and is in fine form, rather than seeming obviously drunk & depressed, but that doesn't necessarily relate to a movie's acceptance. A curio, particularly if you don't understand French.
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