30 December 2021

Claude Zidi's Les Bidasses en folie (1971)

There is a tradition in French cinema of army comedies, and after all national service could at one point last up to six years. But some years after the popularity of this kind of movie comes Les Bidasses en folie, which is a comedy, and in 1971 it was unusual to have such a comedy, although this one mixes the burlesque with criticism of the established order. In fact, coming so briefly after the events of 1968, this wonderful film is a total assault on the Establishment.

At the time of the appearance of Les Bidasses en folie, the pop group Les Charlots (after Charlie Chaplin, after 'charlot' meaning 'clown'), the band had a hit with 'Merci Patron', which was a heavily ironic song thanking the boss for allowing them to work for him, saying that they were very happy with him, clocking on, and so on.

So the five stars of this comedy are the members of Les Charlots (originally the backing band Les Problèmes to Antoine): Jean-Guy (Jean-Guy Fechner), Phil (Gérard Filippetti), Gérard (Gérard Rinaldi), Jean (Jean Sarrus), and Luis (Luis Rego). They're interested in peace and love, singing and dancing, no war. So when they get called up they act like clowns, fuck everything up, and continue to do so until they're thrown out of the army for being dangerous. This is a wonderful hymn to anarchism, although I'm concerned that it's been read incorrectly as a crap film: it is not, it is a hugely important film with an enormous message to the world.

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