Le Gendarme de St. Tropez (1964)

“Le Gendarme de St. Tropez” (1964)



how it felt, and how it feels

Of all the genres, comedy is the one which gets more easily dated. That’s because the conventions for each moment in time (and for each culture) are very volatile, they change quickly. And, for some reason, we don’t “pile” new notions over old ones, which is to say, with humor, once we have new conventions, we reject old ones (unlike, for instance, the detective film). This means that what makes people laugh now, won’t work in a very short time. I’m still young, and i’ve seen that happen, with films i saw as a teen. But than we have another aspect to be reckoned: the fact that, though audiences adapt to new conventions regardless of their age (as long as they keep seeing new films and live active social lives), they still gain a cinematic memory. So, many times, people “know” that they will re-watch a film which “is” funny, they remember they laughed out loud when they saw it the first time.

I saw this film with my mother, and i registered this effect on her. To me, this was something i had seen 10 years ago, to her, it was a memory from childhood, when these gendarme films were fresh.

Now they aren’t fresh. Social criticisms here are totally out of date for European societies, even for the Portuguese!, so that’s a card out of the deck.

The kind of gimmick Funés uses are also no longer so watchable. Physical acting has evolved to play with the body as an object (Jim Carey type) more than with the placing of the characters in a funny situation, like here (Chaplin made both things).

I do sympathize with his unlikable character. The witty policeman, despicable, over-protective about his girl (that’s social commentary as well), caring for appearances. It’s a matter of attitude, and Louis de Funés was a valuable performer.

One thing is remarkable about this film and its context: St.Tropez. What is remarkable, besides beautiful beaches, and pleasant lifestyle, is how cinema was an important, even fundamental, piece of the publicity machinery the french created to promote the place. It starts with ‘Et dieu crea la femme’, and it goes through a number of other films, including this one. Here we even have a song about the village, obviously made to promote both the film and the place. So here (as with ‘and god…’) we have the key elements that were important to highlight: beach, sand, summer-mood, boats, high life, open-minded relaxed living youth, attractive girls. The story exists to show off these elements. Well, you go today to St Tropez and compare it to what we have here in this film (and specially in ‘and god..’) and you have to admit they were successful in their campaign.

My opinion: 3/5

This comment on IMDb


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