The scene takes place in an emergency shelter. Fabrice is at his office, the residents in front of the television. Intrigued by the “full-throated” laughter, Fabrice goes to see what amuses them so much. “I wanted to know which film had this magic of touching so much a French audience, but also African asylum seekers and other nationalities”. On the screen, there was Louis de Funès in Megalomania.
Like others, Fabrice answered our call to find out if Louis de Funès still makes people laugh, forty years after his death. And the verdict is final, it’s a big yes. The vast majority of readers do not lack qualifiers to praise the talents of the actor: “the best”, “a legend”, “inimitable”, “unequalled”, “irreplaceable”. “He was my idol throughout my youth, and still now, when I am 59 years old,” says Pierre. Every time I go to Brittany, I stop at Le Cellier (Loire-Atlantique) to meditate at his grave. »
“The Man with Forty Faces a Minute”
French favorite comedy actor since his revelation to the general public in Pouic-Pouic in 1963 until his death on January 27, 1983, a few months after the release of Gendarme and the Gendarmettes, Louis de Funès invented a comic genre that earned him the nickname “the man with forty faces per minute”. The United States has Charlie Chaplin, France has Louis de Funès and the actor is part of our heritage.
“I introduced it to my children, who in turn introduce it to their children,” says Patricia. “His situational comedy close to the cartoon allows his films to cross the generations”, analyzes Benoît, close to forty, who discovered the actor thanks to his father who “recorded all his films on VHS. We could skip them over and over on rainy days or boring evenings”.
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And to believe the experiences of Isabelle, mother of two children aged 4 and 7, Hervé, father of a 9-year-old boy, or Marie-Anne, whose 12-year-old daughter discovered the films of Louis de Funès two years ago, the comic genius of the actor still works on children today. They were “laughing while watching his films”.
“The actors play with their body or with their face. Louis de Funès, he managed to play with both at the same time. He was passionate about jazz and had this musicality in him. But it was also a lot of work,” explains Nora Ferreira, director of the Louis de Funès museum in Saint-Raphaël, which has attracted more than 180,000 visitors since it opened in 2019.
“The fair incarnation of the most unjust characters”
Louis de Funès, it was an inimitable acting game, but also particularly well-defined characters. “He interpreted the hypocrites or the cheats like no one else, weak with the strong and strong with the weak. Like when he humiliates his staff in The Grand Restaurant or flatters Warrant Officer Gerber, his superior in the series of Gendarmes. He alone could make the wickedness and nervousness of his characters sympathetic,” observes Benoît. An analysis shared by Nora Feirrera: “He had the right incarnation of the most unfair characters. He monopolized all-powerful characters to ridicule them. This humorous spring is timeless. »
Proof of the public’s unfailing love for the actor, the reruns of Louis de Funès’ films during the first confinement of 2020 brought together a total of 50 million viewers. The same year, the exhibition dedicated to him by the Cinémathèque française attracted 80,000 people despite the Covid, the confinements and the gauges.
Because Louis de Funès is a bit like a comforter, in short. It cradles childhoods, reassures adults. “It feels good to see those old movies again, with their simple but thoughtful humor,” notes Carbu. “I never tire of watching them,” adds Jean-Louis. And Nora Ferreira concludes: “It is characteristic of geniuses to last over time. »