Sorry folks, this is gonna be a half-assed review because I don’t speak French and I haven’t been able to find a copy of Le Guignolo which has English subtitles. But I don’t let little things like language barriers get in the way of a good film. Is it a good film? I think so, even without translation I found myself laughing in all the right places, so I’d suggest that’s a sign of a decent night’s entertainment, especially if you understand the lingo.
Le Guignolo is one of those hybrid films which is part caper and partly spy. Jean-Paul Belmondo plays Alexandre Dupré, a confidence trickster and thief. As the film opens, we find him on the balcony of a lavish mansion. Using a glass cutter, he cuts a hole in the glass of the French doors and lets himself in. He scours the place examining all the artwork. He selects one painting and proceeds to cut it from it’s frame. As he is working, a light flicks on and the lady of the house catches him in the act. But rather than fleeing the scene, Dupré seduces her.
Next we see Dupré returning to prison. It appears he was only on day leave, acclimatising for his imminent release. Once he is released though, he sets about work on a big scam. When we next see Dupré he is wearing a jewelled turban on board an ocean liner bound for Morocco. He is pretending to be a wealthy Sheik or Maharaja. After sizing up the passengers, Dupré selects his target. Her name is Sophie, and she appears to be a Princess. I only assume this, because she always wears a diamond encrusted tiara.
Over the next few days, Dupré wines, dines and romances Sophie. On the last night before they make port, Sophie receives a distressing Telegram. My lack of French stops me from understanding the message, but somehow it appears that Sophie has lost all her money. She is upset and distressed. Dupré kindly offers to help her out, by buying her jewellery. They meet in her cabin. Dupré hands over a suitcase full of cash, and Sophie hands over her jewels.
Back in his cabin, Dupré is excited by his haul. He didn’t really give Sophie a mountain of cash. It was all fake. Now he has the jewels, he takes off his disguise and prepares to disembark the ship with his booty. But upon closer examination of the Tiara, Dupré finds it to be fake. It isn’t encrusted with diamonds but glass. In a rage he storms back to Sophie’s cabin.
Meanwhile, Sophie has gone through Duprés suitcase full of cash, and discovered that it is fake. In a rage she storms to Dupré’s cabin. It appears that Sophie isn’t a Princess but a confidence trickster who was looking to latch onto a wealthy passenger on the voyage and rip him off. It appears that they have been working the same scam.
Sophie and Dupré meet in the middle of the deck and laugh about it all. They decide to join forces on the next big scam. Their next scam appears to be a bit more convoluted. It involves a German Count, and Sophie (who is now calling herself Pamela) plays out the same routine. But this also involves Dupré as a jealous lover who attempts to hang himself. The ruse almost works. Sophie gets the cheque from the Count, but when Dupré goes to hang himself, nobody comes to the rescue. He is stuck swaying from the chandelier. His saving grace is the roof gives out, and Dupré and the chandelier come crashing down to the floor. After this failure, Dupré and Sophie decide to go their separate ways.
Next Dupré catches a plane to Venice. On the flight he is approached by a gentleman carrying a briefcase. He asks Dupré to carry the case through customs. Dupré agrees. What Dupré doesn’t realise is that he has been set up to carry the briefcase. The man has a Polaroid photo of Dupré is his pocket (which later will become incriminating evidence). And inside the briefcase, hidden in the bottom of a cigarette lighter is a microfilm. Upon arrival in Venice, Dupré carries the case through. Waiting on the other side is the man who gave it to him. While waiting, he is shot by an unseen assailant. When Dupré arrives to return the case, he finds a crowd of onlookers and the police. He doesn’t want to be involved, so he catches a water-taxi to his hotel. On route, a sniper shoots the driver of the taxi and Dupré’s boat races wildly through the canals of Venice with no-one at the helm.
Of course, this is just the start of the spy-jinks as Dupré is chased by all sides, and he is not sure why. Le Guignolo appears to be great deal of fun. If your a hard-core Belmondo fan, despite the lack of subtitles, the story isn’t too hard to follow. We’ve all seen this type of thing before, but it is a pleasure to see Belmondo doing light comedy. And there is enough action and stunts (though not as many as the normal Belmondo film) to keep most people happy.