Jumat, 18 Maret 2011

Roy Boulting - A French Mistress (1960)

A French Mistress (A Boulting Brothers Comedy - 1960) (Review)

This little mentioned gem may have got somewhat overshadowed by its immediate predecessor, the unarguably brilliant Boulting brothers classic ‘I’m Alright Jack’. After the political furore generated by that film, maybe ‘A French Mistress’ felt a bit tame. It certainly had nothing political to say but is just a rather pleasant bathe in good old fashioned British comedy of the ‘they don’t make ‘em like this anymore’ variety. Despite some very poor notices at the time, I thoroughly enjoyed this period piece which seemed to have all the right ingredients for a thoroughly entertaining Sunday afternoon movie.

Based on a play by Robert Munro this is hardly laugh aloud comedy but a rather gentler affair which, whilst not splitting your sides, will certainly raise a warm smile from time to time.

Set in a very austere and traditional boys school (frightfully posh) the film traces the reactions of both staff and pupils to the arrival of a beautiful new French language teacher (Madeleine Lafarge played by Bardot-lookalike Agnes Laurent). Initially the arrival of (wait for it) a LADY to this virtually all male establishment (as long as you’re not counting the dinner lady played superbly by the ever reliable Irene Handl) puts noses out of joint and there is a huge protest from the boys.

However, once sighted the entire school goes into a dribbling stupor. Even grouchy stalwart James Robertson Justice gets a twinkle in his eye in the young lady's presence.

Cue some gentle farce with schoolboys vying for her attention, as well as masters competing to get near her. Eventually a romance does blossom with a co-teacher (the son of the head master) but when his Father discovers that the young lady's mother is a lady that he had had a romantic encounter with some years before, he begins to believe that he may be the girl’s father and sets about trying to disengage the young couple.

Would it be giving too much away to say that it all works out just splendidly? Probably not.

One of the best comic moments (in a film full of hammy caricatures) is Irene Handl’s protestations at having to change her cooking to suit this new foreigner in their midst. “If she wants her potatoes sautéed then she can think again!” Brilliant stuff.
The transfer is from a good print and there is little artefacting – so all in all a nice transfer. It’s presented here in 4:3 though as the original was in Academy Standard not much is lost with the crop so barely noticeable. Audio is predictably mono but fine throughout.
The disc is bereft of extra features though I guess we should just remain grateful that Optimum are happy to licence and release these rarely seen gems at all.

This is one of a batch of Boulting and Ealing releases from Optimum and in my opinion one of the best. For those with a love of old British comedy this will be an essential addition to the collection.

Stuart McLean

Taken from

no pass

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