Synopsis: Holidaymakers arriving in a Club Med camp on the Ivory Coast are determined to forget their everyday problems and emotional disappointments. Games, competitions, outings, bathing and sunburn accompany a continual succession of casual affairs.
Les Bronzés 6.5
eyelights: the overall vibe.
eyesores: the bland humour.
‘Les Bronzés’ is a French comedy classic featuring the troupe Le Splendid, from which have stemmed some of France’s most renowned actors: Josiane Balasko, Michel Blanc, Marie-Anne Chazel, Christian Clavier, Gérard Jugnot, Dominique Lavanant and Thierry Lhermitte.
The film is based on a play called ‘Amours, Coquillages et Crustacés’ that Le Splendid used to perform in the ’70s. It’s about a bunch of young adults vacationing at a Club Med-like resort, satirizing the socializing, partying and carousing that infamously takes place there.
It was a huge success at the time of its release and notably put Le Splendid on the map, jump-starting their film careers. It was the first entry in what would become a short series of films, featuring ‘Les Bronzés font du ski’ and ‘Les Bronzés 3: Amis pour la vie’. The group also released ‘Le père Noël est une ordure‘.
I had seen ‘Les Bronzés’ once before. In recent years, I had stumbled upon the third installment for a few peanuts and decided to track down the first two before watching it, just as a point of reference. However, the only way I could find them at the time was through crappy AVI files that I found online.
I was most unimpressed with it. There was no story, really: it was basically a bunch of people mingling and trying to bed one another for about 90 mins – the time it took to cover their 8-day stay at the resort. It wasn’t bad, but it was rather unimaginative and unexceptional.
A part of me figured that the problem might have been with the downloads themselves. Not only were there no subtitles, but the sound quality was rather poor, with dialogues being lost in the sound effects or blending together muddily. I was very sure that I had missed a lot of the subtlety of the exchanges.
So when I saw them being released on DVD by Alliance/Vivafilm, only recently, I had my eye on them – I figured that it would be a golden opportunity to see there properly and to give them the chance that they deserved. They were released as a double bill for relatively cheap and I came close to buying them.
Then I stumbled upon the Blu-ray version a couple of weeks ago. It was pretty much the same package as the DVD, with no special features (not even a trailer), but it was half the price. So I bought it. At the very least, I figured that the audio would be as good as it can get – for what it is.
Unfortunately, the problem that I faced with the AVI files persisted. Even with a lossless audio track, the dialogues were frequently lost: I had to pump the audio to unusual levels just to try to make out what was being said. To make matters worse, there were still no subtitles.
Le sigh… I guess it doesn’t get better than that, then.
So my impression remains the same as it was initially: not much goes on, the gags are mundane or misfires, the characters aren’t especially endearing even though they are somewhat relatable, their interactions seem fairly random, underdeveloped, and the editing weakens the storytelling.
Frankly, I think that there is a cultural disconnect. I honestly have no knowledge of French culture during the 1970s. Were there references or subtleties that would only be understood by the French, or even by people watching it during that era? That seems likely, and I will never be either.
But it remains that ‘Les Bronzés’ isn’t a terrible film, per se. I just don’t get it. And yet it’s a cult film so popular in France and in French countries that its second sequel is one of the most popular French films ever, being France’s 6th biggest box office success of all time.
It’s too bad that I don’t get it; I really hate misunderstanding a cultural landmark. But I will watch it again someday: ‘Les Bronzés’ has a certain “je ne sais quoi” which is kind of appealing, something that will no doubt make me want to watch it one lazy Sunday afternoon.
Perhaps it’s just a matter of time before I finally come around and join the party.
Date of viewing: May 1, 2013