Les Visiteurs

This is one of the best comedy films I have ever had the pleasure of watching. Billed on the box as Monty Python meets Blackadder this fantastic French film lives up to the comedy standard of both. Released in 1993 this film tells the story of Godefroy the Hardy (Jean Reno) and his disgusting henchman Jacquasse (Christian Clavier) who are accidentally shot into the present from the 12th century by a senile wizard. They understandably have trouble blending in, in modern France, as they search for a way home.

The film begins in the 12th century with a comical battle which reminded me of Monty Python´s Holy Grail. Godefroy proves his worth by saving the king and as a reward is allowed to fetch a bride. He immediately sets out to wed Frenegade (Valerie Lemercier), his true love. On the way to meet her though, Godefroy and his men run across a Black Sabbath and capture a witch.

As he arrives at the castle the witch drugs him and he makes the mistake of shooting his prospective father-in-law in the head with a crossbow, mistaking him for a bear. As you might expect this puts a dampener on the wedding plans and Godefroy decides to seek out a wizard so he can go back in time and change events. Enter the senile wizard who accidentally sends Godefroy and his vassal centuries into the future.

Les Visiteurs

The two medieval time travellers are forced to come face to face with modern life in the 20th century. They discover cars, toilets, phones and clingfilm, all of which they find intensely confusing. The scene where Jacquasse decides to cook food and discovers the phone had me crying with laughter, it is worth watching the whole film for that scene alone.

At first people assume Godefroy is mad, until his descendant (also played by Valerie Lemercier) takes him under her wing and tries uselessly to keep the visitors under control. There is also an appearance from the descendant of the grubby Jacquasse (also played by Christian Clavier) as the modern day nouveau riche owner of Godefroy´s castle.

The film lasts 105 minutes and is packed with laughs, directed by Jean-Marie Poire who does a tremendous job throughout. Poire also co-wrote the script with Clavier and they seem to have formed an excellent partnership. The acting is superb, Jean Reno is fast becoming a Hollywood favourite since doing Leon, and he proves in this that he is also capable of some brilliant comedy acting, he plays the part of Godefroy the Hardy perfectly. Christian Clavier also impressed me, as both the stuck up hotel owner and the medieval serf, two very different characters, both made hilarious by Clavier´s acting. Lemercier provides excellent support for the two male leads.

The film is in French with English subtitles but don't let that put you off, it is well worth watching. I have seen trailers for the forthcoming American remake of this film and must confess I am worried they will ruin it. This is as close as you get to a perfect comedy film so I don´t see the need for a remake. I can only hope they don´t change the script or cast but they probably will. In the meantime go and find the original, I guarantee it will make you laugh like a medieval drunken halfwit.

Reviewed by Simon Hill

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