Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Start the Revolution Without Me

Year 9, Day 102 - 4/12/17 - Movie #2,596

BEFORE: From the Old West, we're going to jump into the WABAC machine and go back further, to another turbulent time, the French Revolution tonight.  It's really sneaky of me to use actors like Donald Sutherland, who's had a very long career, to toggle between a chain of recent films and go back to one from the 1970's, which will help set me up for my Easter films.  This is another take on the "actors playing two roles in the same film", as I saw last week in "Legend" and last month in "Now You See Me 2".  The conceit here is that two sets of twins got scrambled together, creating two very different pairs of brothers that look exactly the same.

THE PLOT: Two mismatched sets of identical twins - one aristocrat, one peasant - mistakenly exchange identities on the eve of the French Revolution.

AFTER: It doesn't really matter which set of twins was "supposed" to be aristocrat (my guess would be on the Sutherland twins, because he's better at acting all stuck-up, plus the aristocratic father was a very tall man...) because this is really a study in nature vs. nurture.  The sets get mixed up at the doctor's office, and the doctor intentionally scrambles the babies, because this way "we'll at least be HALF right...".  Yeah, take away that doctor's license - but it's true, they had no DNA testing back then, so if you brought home the wrong baby from the hospital, that was now YOUR baby to raise.

So the pair of brothers that are raised in poverty end up drafted into the cause of the Revolution as cannon fodder, and the pair of brothers that are raised wealthy in Corsica get dragged into the fight to STOP the revolutionaries, and are promised half of France if they succeed.   They should know, however, that no king ever gives up half of his kingdom, because he wouldn't really stay a king of anything for very long if he carved up his territory like that.  No worries, they come running because they figure if they can get half of France, then with a little more effort, they can get the whole thing.  Philippe dreams of being king of France, while his brother Pierre just wants to be queen, if you know what I mean.

Naturally, everything goes wrong as the Revolution approaches - Philippe and Pierre come to town disguised as commoners, arriving on the same boat that lowly Claude and Charles have been told to attack, and in the confusion, the two pairs essentially switch places.  The rich, connected De Sisi brothers fight so well that they are arrested and thrown in jail, while the peasant Coupe brothers flee the scene in the carriage that was supposed to pick up the rich ones, so they're taken to serve the king.

Unfortunately, the whole Revolution thing seems to get forgotten once the peasant brothers get a taste of the luxury life in the palace, and the film devolves into a sort of bedroom farce instead, with a lot of hidden passages and secret walls allowing access to various rooms, with the queen able to command all of the soldiers by promising them sexual favors, and making King Louis dress up in a lot of silly costumes.  It's hard to keep track of whether they're working for the Duke, or in conflict with him, and then the whole thing builds up to that inevitable moment when the rich twins escape from jail, and the two pairs of twins finally meet -

And that's where the film stops dead, the story just sort of ends without anything being resolved.  Clearly it seems like the writers didn't have an endgame planned, because when you mash up elements of "A Tale of Two Cities", "The Corsican Brothers" and "The Man in the Iron Mask", then how do you even pick an appropriate ending?  Someone here didn't even bother to try, because the film cuts back to the narrator, and then we see the actors try to resolve things, not the characters.  What a cop-out.

Also starring Gene Wilder (last seen in "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex"), Hugh Griffith (last seen in "How to Steal a Million"), Jack MacGowran (last seen in "King Lear"), Billie Whitelaw (last seen in "Frenzy"), Victor Spinetti, Ewa Aulin, Helen Fraser, Murray Melvin (last seen in "Alfie"), Rosalind Knight, Maxwell Shaw, Graham Stark, and Orson Welles (last seen in "Macbeth").

RATING: 3 out of 10 suits of armor

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