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FILM : Robert's 'Tall Blond Man': Poking Biting Fun

May 23, 1991|MARK CHALON SMITH | Mark Chalon Smith is a free-lancer who writes about film and theater for The Times Orange County Edition.

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.

Francois' taste, never explained, sends Bernard's agents into a frenzy. What does that black shoe mean? Is it a code? All this becomes the first in a series of satirical takes on how simple events can become grandiose and mysterious, if we think about them enough.

What: "The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe" by Yves Robert.

When: Friday, May 24, at 7 and 9 p.m.

Where: The Crystal Cove Auditorium in UC Irvine's Student Center.

Whereabouts: Take the San Diego (405) Freeway to Jamboree Road and head south. Go east on Campus Drive to Bridge Road, and take Bridge Road into the campus.

Wherewithal: $4.

Where to Call: (714) 865-3679.

AT THE MOVIES, Pages 12-17.

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