Le monocle rit jaune
Director: Georges Lautner
Le monocle rit jaune, AKA The Monocle, is a beautifully filmed and exceptionally silly Eurospy production, which makes outstanding use of its picturesque locations and stark photography. Delving deep into farcical territory and relishing every minute of it, this unusual espionage outing doesn't shy away from the more outlandish elements of the genre, yet embraces it with open arms. Centralized over its eccentric main character and the wacky antics that he gets himself into, The Monocle is without a doubt an exceedingly unique spy entry, one that allows the fun to take over the proceedings and never let go.
It appears that a gang of Asian terrorists have mounted a destructive campaign against world factions who are conducting nuclear research and it is up to French agent Major Theobald Dromard, AKA The Monocle, to bring the bad guys to justice. Flying into Hong Kong, it is up to Dromard, his trusty side kick Poussin, and a handful of unlikely allies, to stop the terrorists and keep safe an American nuclear aircraft carrier that just so happens to be coming into port. With time quickly running out and no trails to follow, can Dromard track down the culprits amidst this clashing of cultures?
Paul Meurisse takes on the role of Theobald Dromard, the unorthodox secret agent who always seems to come out on top. This is the third time that Meurisse has donned the role and I must say that it seems at this point that he really owns the character. I've unfortunately never had the chance to see his previous efforts with the role, but from what I've witnessed in The Monocle, I've made it a priority to hunt down the other two films. His interpretation of a secret agent is as loopy as they come, and it is in this parody infused approach that makes his performance so enjoyable. His actions, smart quips, and running commentary are wildly off the wall and most often entirely off the subject. He even has his own unique way of firing his gun, which proves hilariously to be one hundred percent effective in even the most improbable situations. Meurisse's contributions to the film and the character are among the productions most valuable and effective assets, and it is one that is never left untapped.
Aside from Dromard, the film is also brimming with other interesting and unusual characters. Robert Dalban plays the trusty assistant Poussin, who's hardened looks and drab personality make for a contrasting presence against Dromard's more light heartened nature. Olivier Despax also contributes to the film as Frederic, the young associate who's itching for a piece of the action. As for the feminine touch of the film, the bragging rights go to the legendary horror queen Barbara Steele who portrays the lovely and mysterious Valerie. To my knowledge this is the only spy feature that Steele has been involved in, and I must say it was a nice and unexpected surprise, for the genre suits her. Rounding out the rest of the cast is an assortment of wacky characters that come and go like the wind, but always leave a lasting impression on the overall outlandish nature of the film.
The locations of Hong Kong and Macao are expertly lensed by director Georges Lautner, who also happened to film the first two Monocle entries starring Paul Meurisse. His eye for beautiful imagery is put to the test, as we are given some breathtaking views of this exotic and magical land. Each and every frame is composed with unbridled care, giving a stark contrast against the carefree nature of the film and its characters. The stand out locations of the movie have got to be the harbor scenes, the bustling streets of Hong Kong, and the rundown chapel on top of a hill where Dromard has a most exciting shoot out. In all of these instances the black and white photography shines, making for a fun film that is easy on the eyes and picturesquely perfect.
As for the wacky antics of the film, the moments are aplenty. Dromard's shooting skills for starters are a trip, as he takes on multiple bad guys with ease, even going as far as to taking out two henchmen with one bullet. The guy is a wonder! There is also a completely unforgettable sequence that shows Dromard and friends being attacked by a group of Hong Kong gangsters and a restaurant, who proceed to pull off a dance number in slow motion like they just jumped straight out of West Side Story. It's unbelievably random and completely out of place, but the strangeness of the moment is just so remarkably hypnotizing that it simply feels right. There are a number of instances in the film that capture this kind of magically obscure wonder, and for that alone I highly recommend it. It is a film that is hard to categorize, because it straddles such an odd line between action/espionage and comedy, but it is an unusual concoction that is so unbelievably watchable.
Le monocle rit jaune is a sensationally fun flick that essentially predates the typical Eurospy movie, yet seems to be the stepping stone for what the genre would eventually become in its later years. Entertaining, lighthearted, and full of surprising action, The Monocle is without a doubt a wacky sort of film, one that wears its heart on its sleeve and never apologizes for it. From its beautiful photography and its classic black and white imagery, it's not easy to dismiss the production's visionary prowess.
Paul Meurisse gives an outstanding performance as the comical secret agent Theobald Dromard and his eccentric mannerisms and essential screen presence is a valued asset to the movie's lasting appeal. The same can be said for Robert Dalban, Barbara Steele, and the rest of the cast, as they all bring in outstandingly succinct performances that cater to their various strengths. Essentially it is the film's incessant nature to go against the grain and never tread familiar ground that really makes it such an enjoyable ride. There is always something that happens in the story that spins you for a loop, making you question what will happen next. It is the spontaneous personality of the movie that really makes it a special gem, and it is an aspect of the production that is wholly embraced by its film crew. Unique and unbridled to the last, The Monocle is a film that engages the viewer in multiple ways, yet it always is focused on putting on one hell of an entertaining show. Le monocle rit jaune is.....
|Will you guys stop talking! Some people are trying to watch the movie!|
|Looks like someone is ready to get their Barbara Steele autograph.|
|How about no smoking in my car A-hole.|
|No one was impressed with his ceramic pottery making skills.|
|It's raining men! Hallelujah it's raining men!|
|That's right! You woo the shit out of her Dromard!|
|You chumps got a staring problem?|
|Paul Meurisse looks like he just stepped off the set of a biblical epic.|
|How dare you read such smut in front of Barbara Steele!|
|The name's Dromard.... Theobald Dromard.|
|And so the dance battle begins.... I shit you not!|
|I think I forgot to turn off the oven.|
|She totally pulls off the Jambi look.|
|Reservoir Dogs eat your heart out!|
|This show is hilarious! See! This guy likes it!|
|Don't mess with Mr. Peanut and his posse.|
|I'm turning Chinese, I think I'm turning Chinese... I really think so!|