This affectionate satire of an urban trendy transferred to a provincial town is now the most successful French film of all time.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2008
It seems the northern Pas-de-Calais region has long been regarded by many French citizens from further south as a hell of disused coal mines and rusting factories, and its inhabitants as pale, socially retarded types who live with their mothers until they're 40, eat disgusting cheeses, drink too much and speak an impenetrable dialect, Ch'timi. When comedian Dany Boon (My Best Friend) set out to change all this by poking fun at the stereotypes and at the southerners who perpetrate them, he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams: he made the most successful French movie of all time. The film traces the misadventures of a postal worker, Philippe Abrams (Kad Merad), who moves north from sunny Provence for work and finds himself unexpectedly charmed by the region's unusual customs and warm hospitality. Convinced that to admit as much to his wife will bring on a divorce, he enlists his new friends in an elaborate charade of extreme provincial backwardness when she visits. Boon himself is the embodiment of Ch'timi charm as Antoine, the bashful local postman periodically emboldened by the bottle. The film is more reminiscent of such classics as Whisky Galore and Local Hero than of staple French comedy. Though the dialect jokes are a subtitler's nightmare, the good-natured satire of small town clannishness and urban sniffiness needs no translation at all. — BG