Comedies age. All things age actually, films included, comedies included. Seeing 50 years later a film that you remember having laughed at until falling under the chair (this is a Romanian expression, I hope it’s clear what it means) is risky. The experience was interesting and surely much different.


Filmed in 1966, a little more than 20 years after the end of WWII, ‘s La Grande Vadrouille represents a certain step in the evolution of the French (and not only French) films about the war that devastated Europe and the whole world. Taking distance and starting to allow ridicule replace at least in part hate and contempt for the German former enemies was not a completely new thing, I can remember ‘s Babette Goes to War which preceded it with seven years. Yet, in this story about three British airmen parachuted in occupied Paris and saved by a band of French civilians including a famous music conductor (), a humble paint-man () and a blue-eyed blonde puppeteer () the enemies are still all bad and stupid. It will take a time for the ‘good German’ to show up in war movies and even more time for the cinematographic acknowledgment of the collaboration with the occupiers. Meantime all French are good guys. Or good girls. Or good nuns.


(video source StudiocanalUK)


The film enjoyed huge success, it was actually from its release until 2008 the most successful French film of all times. I remember having seen it in the late 60s in Romania, and I read about film fans from China for example enjoying it as a huge success after the end of the Cultural Revolution. To a large extent the success is due to the presence on screen of the two greatest comedy actors of the French cinema at that time – and . Both were huge stars and had brought them together on screen in a previous film, and now wrote the scenario of La Grande Vadrouille especially for them. Most of the time they are together on screen and the comic qualities of the two enhance each other, the chemistry between them is obvious and so is the pleasure of acting. Years have passed and I did not fall under the chair any longer, laughs turned into smiles and nostalgia, and I can also see the naivety of the script and the schematic story line – but it’s certainly mostly me.  The two are again together in my mind, at least for the next 50 years.