cast: Thierry Lhermitte, Jacques Villeret, Francis Huster, Daniel Prévost, and Alexandra Vandernoot
writer and director: Francis Veber
77 minutes (18) 1998
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Pathé DVD Region 2 retail
reviewed by Mike Philbin
“Mais, quel con!” you’ll hear this a lot in this film, in fact right up to the end, and it’s justified. Francois Pignon is a real idiot. In fact, he’s so jinxed; he’s a past master in the art of causing chaos. Winner of a Goya award (best European film) and three Cesar awards (best actor, support and script) this may well be a classic of French farce that is well worth renting out.
It’s a simple set up. Wednesday night, wealthy socialites gather for dinner. Each guest has to bring an idiot (in French ‘con’) to entertain the diners, hence Le Dīner de cons (aka: The Dinner Game). Tonight, publisher Pierre Brochant is beside himself with glee. Thanks to the help of a business colleague who meets matchstick-Eiffel-Tower-building Pignon on the longest train journey of his life, Brochant believes he’s found the gem, the primo idiot if that’s not a contradiction in terms, and will certainly win tonight’s prize. Little does he realise the world of pain that awaits him in this proper funny laugh-out-louder.
It starts with a game of golf with aforementioned business colleague. Brochant, of course, puts his back out with the first swing. That means the dinner is off for him. But wait, Pignon’s already been invited and is on his way, glossy portfolio of matchstick models under his arm. Pignon’s also excited – he sees this as his real breakthrough meeting. Finally… a publisher is keen to print a deluxe edition of his matchstick buildings. It’s all so pathetic.
The second unfortunate thing that happens to publisher Brochant, that’s before the arrival of Pignon, is his wife leaves him. Brochant’s a heartless bastard. His wife is gone. What does he care? Well, he does care in his own egotistical way. Especially when he finds out that his wife might have returned to her ex-husband, the ex-husband he stole her from in the first place. You see the farcical hell-bound destination this little chuffa-train is destined for.
But that’s not all. There’s Brochant’s insatiable nymphomaniac lover. There’s the sympathetic ex-husband. There’s the rat-like taxman. There’s the wife’s suspected lover Meneaux.
Based on writer-director’s Francis Veber’s play, this actually ‘feels’ like a stage play – people arrive on stage, people exit the stage, people are invited to appear on the stage, and people are dissuaded from returning to the stage. All with impeccable timing and excruciating narrative relevance. It’s a clever film, with some good comedy wordplay reminiscent of the best of The Two Ronnies (ref: four candles/ fork handles). You’ll be laughing out loud, trust me.