In Yves Robert's "The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe," screening Friday as part of the "Offbeat Comedy" film series at UC Irvine, actor Pierre Richard fights madly with a roll-away bed, he's bested by a water-spouting toilet, that sort of thing. It's not Chaplin. It's not Keaton. It's really not even good Jerry Lewis.
Fortunately, though, all this passes; Robert mixes it in sparingly enough that it plods by without causing too much pain. The director is more interested in making biting fun of France's unintelligent intelligence network, that likes to pry into everything. And, more on a thinking man's level, he likes to toy with the concept of how illusory life can be.
The movie gets going on a deceptively serious note of intrigue: Toulouse (Jean Rochefort), the Paris bureau chief of the French Secret Service, is concerned about maneuvering by Bernard (Bernard Blier), the second-in-command who is building his own spy network and who plans to take his boss' job.
To catch him in the act, Toulouse puts Bernard on the trail of a nobody, picked from the crowd at the Paris airport. Francois (Pierre Richard) is a quirky, passive, clumsy concert violinist, spotted by Toulouse's confederates only because he is wearing one black shoe, one brown.