Jean-Paul Belmondo, “the ace of aces” of French cinema passed away this Monday, September 06. The star, an emblematic actor of the New Wave, has appeared in many quality films. Some are on Netflix and we expect to watch them this week, one way or another to pay tribute to him.
Jean-Paul Belmondo, mythical figure of French cinema, passed away this Monday at the age of 88. For us, this is the opportunity to recommend a film, among many others, where it occupies the front of the poster.
Our choice fell on Le Magnifique, classic by Philippe Broca where Belmondo excels in a particular role. The feature film is available in the Netflix catalog and here is why it deserves to be seen and reviewed.
The writer François Merlin tries somehow to complete the adventures of his hero, the invincible spy Bob Saint-Clar. But where the latter succeeds in everything he undertakes, the author has a hard time keeping up with his alter ego. He then imagines the adventures of the invincible spy by attributing to the protagonists of the adventure the features of those they rub shoulders with in reality. So begins an incredible adventure.
Even more than 45 years after its release, Le Magnifique continues to produce its small effect. It is not a masterpiece, a feature film whose brilliance is palpable at every moment or a writing marvel. On the other hand, it gives off an energy, a pep and a humor which is a pleasure to see.
Long before OSS 117, Philippe de Broca already decided to parody spy films. The result is an effective mix of genres, a thrilling happy “mess” despite the limitations of its script. We don’t appreciate The Magnificent for the finesse of its script, even if it is not bad for all that. It is the efficiency of the parody that strikes first, the agility with which he uses the canons of the genre to mock them in his own way.
In the main role, Jean-Paul Belmondo is perfect, in the skin of François Merlin as in that of Bob Saint-Clar. Sometimes cabotin, sometimes puppet, the actor has a lot of fun with a communicative good humor. Obviously, the two characters don’t have much to do with it. The first lives a mundane and rather sad existence in his seedy apartment. The second, a sublime spy with unparalleled skill, goes where his duty calls him and faces many dangers.
The film does a very good job of integrating this duality into its narrative. The contrast is absurd, but it gives the Magnificent charm. Merlin is the exact opposite of Saint-Clar and the film feeds on these differences to fully play the parody card. One of the realities is dull, but human and believable. The other makes you dream by giving the film the dose of action it needs.
Overall the pace is good, despite a few lengths and an excessive ending. Otherwise, the gags are linked and we gladly have fun on the quirky side of the Magnificent, like the adventures of the hero imagined by François Merlin. The seductive spy aligns the lines, each more caricature than the other and multiplies the stunts. His writer alter ego makes people dream less, but he has the merit of having an overflowing imagination.
So don’t hesitate to watch Le Magnifique again. It’s still entertainment worth seeing, even decades later. If you haven’t yet had the chance to immerse yourself in the adventures of Bob Saint-Clar, now is the time to do so. The Magnificent shouldn’t disappoint and it’s a great way to pay homage to Jean-Paul Belmondo.
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