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The Klutz
(a.k.a. Les Deux Pieds Dans La MÍme Bottine)
(1974)

Director: Pierre Rose  
Cast:
Claude Michaud, Louise Portal, Guy Provost


There are some definite certainties that we all encounter in our lives. I am pretty sure you have heard of the inevitability of everyone encountering death and taxes during our lives. Life certainly isn't perfect with those things around, but there is a lot more specific kinds of negative stuff in this world that we encounter during our lives. One of those things is hatred. No doubt about it - there is a lot of hostility to be found in every country, every city, and every home. Much of it we find outside of our lives, listening to the news or the neighbors arguing next door. But never should any of us deny that inside each and every one of us, we contain hostile feelings towards certain individuals, or certain things in our society. Now, I am a pretty easy-going fellow most of the time, and I try not to get distracted with annoying things that make me express my hostility in colorful ways. But with my love of movies, every so often I get a reminder of something that makes me realize that the motion picture industry is not perfect. And that movie-related thing that gets me enraged is the Canadian motion picture industry. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - the vast majority of movies that come out of the Canadian motion picture industry suck big time. There are so many things about Canadian films and Canadian filmmakers that annoy me. I hate how the government funds (with my tax dollars) very few movies that might attract a sizable audience, instead funding more often than not naval-gazing exercises that turn off audiences just from a simple description of their so-called plots. I hate how Canadian filmmakers blame the theater chains for their movies getting little to no release when the actual fact is that the films' distributors are responsible for how minimal the theatrical releases are. I also hate how no one in the industry takes responsibility, and the same people in the industry stay in power no matter how bad the films do at the box office.

Yes, I have a lot of hate for the Canadian film industry. But I should make it clear that this hatred isn't for the entire Canadian film industry. There are a couple of parts of the Canadian film industry that I admire. One of those parts, one that I have covered several times on this web site, is the Canadian film industry that relies on private funding. Even when their movies do not work, their films all the same show a definite effort towards being entertaining. The other part of the Canadian film industry that I admire, one that I haven't covered before, is the French Canadian film industry. From the start, the Quebecers have made a high percentage of their film output to also being films that are entertaining. When the Canadian government kick-started the Canadian film industry in the late 1960s, the Quebecers for the first few years made movies that were named "maple syrup pornos" - movies that made the flimsiest excuses to show nudity and sex. They were cheaply made, but made huge profits despite the fact that they didn't travel outside the province. Then the film industry in Quebec more or less died for a while when the tax shelter system was introduced, causing much local investment (and local filmmakers) to go to English Canada. After the tax shelter system was abolished in the early 1980s, the Quebecers slowly rebuilt their industry year after year, for the most part by making movies (mostly comedies) such as the Les Boys hockey films that might not have pleased critics, but made millions of dollars at the box office. In the last few years, the evolution of the industry in Quebec now results in movies being made that please critics as well as audiences, such as Monsieur Lazhar and Incendies.

With all of this success by filmmakers in Quebec, you may be wondering why until now I have never reviewed for this web site a movie coming from Quebec. Well, I don't have an easy answer for that. Part of the reason may be that Quebec culture is in many ways much different The Klutzfrom English Canadian culture, and that extends to their films. Because I don't understand all the nuances of Quebec culture, more often than not I have passed on the opportunity to watch one of their movies and watched something else instead. But recently, when I found a copy of The Klutz in a used DVD store, my curiosity about the popular Quebec film industry was at an all time high, so I figured this was as good an opportunity as any to sample Quebec's wide appeal movies. The plot synopsis on the back of the video box did seem a little familiar, though. See if you agree: "Have you ever had 'one of those days' when nothing seems to go right? Well, imagine how Claude feels - his entire life has been one screwy day after another. Some people attract attention, others attract the opposite sex, all poor Claude can attract is chaos - and plenty of it! Discouraged by his ill luck, Claude is on his way to see his girlfriend when he suddenly finds himself in the middle of a bank robbery. In the wink of an eye, Claude becomes public enemy number one with both cops AND robbers hot on his trail! A series of wild and slapstick misadventures follow from the Chinese laundry, into a madcap masquerade, through the middle of town to the hilarious finale in the local cemetery. And for the first time in his life, Claude, the world's most loveable bungler, finds that sometimes things CAN turn out for the best!"

I'm pretty sure that after reading that above plot synopsis, you are asking yourself where you have seen it before, since it sounds so familiar. It certainly did to me - I've seen various variations of the "clumsy loser who gets into trouble" plot many times over the years. Actually, however, I wasn't asking where exactly I had seen this plot before while watching The Klutz. I was asking myself two other questions: "Is this a successful execution of an old formula?" as well as, "Do the Quebec filmmakers and surrounding Quebec culture give this old formulaic plot any kind of fresh spin?" I will answer the second question first. While the end credits confirm that the movie was shot in a couple of cities in Quebec, and also reveal that the entire cast was made up of French-Canadian actors, there is very little to indicate that the movie is taking place in Quebec. True, we get to see some written French on building signs and other places here and there, but that is about it. Also, the characters don't seem to be behaving any differently than you would find in a Hollywood movie. This may be because the screenwriter of The Klutz, one Aubrey Solomon, was an Anglophone who later worked in the American and English-Canadian television industries. While it's kind of disappointing that the movie doesn't use any part of the Quebec culture to put a fresh spin on things, the ways the movie is written and directed do give the movie a universal feel. No matter what culture any viewer might be from, they will be able to understand everything about the film from beginning to end, and won't be confused about anything.

Unfortunately, while The Klutz succeeds in being a universal story, I am pretty sure that any person from Argentina to Zimbabwe who sits down to watch it will agree with me that it's a real stinker. The movie goes wrong in just about any way you can think of. I'll start with the acting first. While actor Claude Michaud in the role of the title figure at first glance certainly looks the part of a klutz, with his shaggy hair and looking awkward in any outfit he is wearing, otherwise he is not convincing in the role. I can't comment on how he delivers his lines (the print I watched was wretchedly dubbed into English), but his body language is too slow and too predictable for someone who supposedly isn't in control of any situation. As for the actress who plays his character's girlfriend (Louise Portal, The Barbarian Invasions), she looks cute, but constantly acts in a remarkably calm manner for someone who has a boyfriend who constantly screws up in front of her. In fact, everyone else in the movie sorely lacks any kind of comic energy. My guess is that the cast felt defeated because of the working conditions. This is a pretty cheap movie, for one thing. There's very little brought into the lens of the camera that could be called "production values". The movie constantly executes obvious cost-cutting measures, whether it fails to show a key bank robbery (instead just showing the robbers run out of the bank afterwards), or showing the hero and his girlfriend walking along and hearing their conversation on the soundtrack despite being able to see their faces clearly enough so that it's painfully obvious that they are not moving their lips at all. Watching the movie, it becomes clear that a lot of the budget must have been blown on the stop-motion animated opening credits sequence (though if you ask me, it all the same manages to be more stop than motion.)

Is it necessary for me to reveal that the answer to the other question I asked two paragraphs ago? Well, I still have to write a few more hundred words to make a full review, so I'll go on for a while as to why the humor in The Klutz doesn't manage to provoke one single laugh. For one thing, many of the gags are so familiar and predictable that you'll be able to guess a great deal of them long before they happen, like during the pre-credits sequence when someone is told to plant a cross into the ground (ha ha, he thrusts the cross into his boss' foot!) There are also a number of gags that are so unbelievable they are frustratingly stupid, like when the hero, on the run, runs into a Chinese laundry and comes out wearing traditional Chinese clothing and a Fu Manchu mustache. (What laundry stocks Fu Manchu mustaches?) But it's not just that the gags in the movie are so tired and stupid, they have been executed in the worst ways possible. Director Pierre Rose (who never directed a movie before or after this one) shows no sense of comic timing or direction. For example, in one scene Claude gets up from a table, and (yes, you guessed it) accidentally pulls the tablecloth and the dishes on it off the table. When this happens, you never see Claude in the shot, and afterwards you hear Claude blubbering apologies on the soundtrack, but you still don't see him. And it's not just that Rose seems unable to stage scenes, he is unable to generate the appropriate background tone. A movie like this needs a feeling of being out of control, like anything wacky could happen. But that's not to be. Nowhere in the movie is there this feeling. More often than not there is a calm, sedate tone. With such little energy on display, the movie quickly becomes tiresome and boring. If you ask me, the real klutz connected with this movie is director Rose. I think if a documentary on the making of The Klutz had been filmed simultaneously - and focused on Rose - the sight of seeing a real life klutz in action probably would have been a lot funnier than the fiction film being examined.

(Posted November 1, 2014)

Check for availability on Amazon (DVD)

See also: Cracking Up, Don't Die Too Hard!, The Nutt House

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