Friday, April 28, 2006

"The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob" (1973)

Imagine a cheesy farce featuring a French version of Archie Bunker, a network of Arab terrorists, a Shomer Shabbat but otherwise non-religious Jewish chauffeur, and a clan of French Hasids, and their imposters. The movie is largely set in a pre-hip Marais and in the French countryside, but begins with lingering shots of the World Trade Center, followed by a brief scene in what seems to be a pre-hip Lower East Side. There are many, many mishaps involving a tub of bubble gum at a bubble gum factory somewhere in France. Near the end, there is an oh so poignant, lingering shot on a handshake between the Jewish chauffeur and the Arab good guy (a Burt Reynolds clone with brown makeup) that follows their acknowledgement that they are, in a sense, cousins. Why can't we all just get along? Seems, gosh darn it, we can.

I cannot believe that this movie exists. All the issues of French citizenship and identity, of intergroup relations, but a Bugs Bunny-level comedy? The whole thing is surreal, and seems more like a dream I'd have had while writing my BA than like something that would have actually brought a 1970s French audience to the theaters. Regardless, even if you don't, like me, find yourself in the convenient position of getting all the Jewish jokes and all the French jokes, it's still worth seeing, if only because I think the movie could be classified as a psychedelic drug.

When I would think "French-Jewish film," my first thought used to be "Au revoir les enfants," or maybe "The Sorrow and the Pity." The more recent "La Petite Jérusalem," which I have yet to see, sounds like it fits in well enough with this cheery genre. Now, I will immediately think of this new (well, new-to-me) comedy, for better or worse.


Alex B. said...

La Petite Jérusalem isn't very good, I was kind of disappointed when I saw it last week. It's full of clichés. At the beginning of the film, you feel as if the director wanted to send a bunch of signals to make sure the audience knows that the characters are, like, very Jewish -- which gets annoying, especially given that this setting up of things to come lasts for about 45 minutes. And some actors are just not credible. Anyway, let us know what you think if you ever see it.

Les aventures de Rabbi Jacob is a classic of French comedy, though. Not very subtle, but what can you expect from Louis de Funès...

Have you ever seen "Le dîner de cons"? (En passant, ce film n'a rien à voir avec la thématique sur les Juifs français, mais c'est à mon avis une des meilleures comédies françaises de tous les temps, avec Jacques Villeret, Thierry l'Hermite, Catherine Frot, etc...)

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

I wasn't much of a fan of "Le dîner de cons," but it is definitely more subtle than "Rabbi Jacob." Doesn't take much. But still, the movie's hilarious, and so predictable and cliched--as well as unrealistic and internally inconsistent--that the ridiculousness ends up being what makes it great. Or something like that. Or possibly just Victor Pivert's imitation of a goat.

Anonymous said...

Aw man - memories! Louis de Funès was a riot! OK so it's a completely idiotic film, but what can I say? It always makes me laugh.

On another completely different note, see if you can track down this film circa 1980/1981 called "Le Grand Pardon" about turf wars between French North African Jewish mobsters and French Arab mobsters. That was a fantastic film. Really.

And how is it you don't write for Jewlicious? How can such a thing be possible?? Next time we're in New York, we'll invite you out for drinks, slip something into yours when you are not looking and before you know it... heh. Just sayin'

Anonymous said...

To the viewers of Rabbi Jacob:

Il faut arrêter de se masturber sur des films comme celui-ci. C'est marrant, c'est du Louis de Funès et en plus c'était un peu risqué. Un point c'est tout.

De plus, si n'importe qui essayerait de faire un film pareil il serait taxé d'antisémitisme ou d'islamophobie. Je pense que rien que pour ça, en dehors du côté assez comique (car je pense qu'en étant français, et parisien de surcroit, on aprrécie mieux le film...) du film, ça reste un bon film. J'aurais bien aimé qu'on puisse se foutre de la gueule des juifs français sans être taxé de je ne sais pas quoi.