SYNOPSIS: Marc Elbichon, a private, investigates the particular wave of assassinations taking place in town: a man attacks women and kills them by embedding a telephone dial on their foreheads…

We tend to forget it, but initially, the unknown was not three but five – they called themselves The five. Gathered by dint of crossing paths in café-theatres and finding themselves highlighted in The Little Theater of Bouvard on Antenne 2, this close-knit group, made up of Didier Bourdon, Seymour Brussel, Bernard Campan, Pascal Legitimus and Smainwill have been successful until attempting the adventure on the big screen with this parody of film noir which was a total failure when it was released in 1985. The sequel will see the successive departures of Smain (who did not believe in the future of the group and will embark on a glorious solo career) then Seymour Brussel (who will convert to bioenergetic medicine), which will give the three remaining members the opportunity to form the trio The unknown following their meeting with Paul Lederman. What to remember from Phone always rings twice today ? Already that its relative confidentiality is quite strange insofar as a good number of spectators – including the author of this review – see it very clearly as the best feature film of the band. After that his sense of burlesque and nonsense has a knack for exporting the spirit ZAZ (no, not the singer…) in the straightjacket of popular French comedy – very few films have been able to achieve this. Finally, the very high rate of delirium and absurdity comes close to making us believe that The City of Fear had a precursor in good and due form (the discovery of the motive linking all the crimes is strangely similar…).

When the unknown keep releasing contradictory information on the hypothesis of a return to the stage (it seems rather compromised) or on the big screen (it seems rather promised), review this jubilant comedy – whose DVD published by StudioCanal is negotiated at a price of gold on the Internet! – is enough to avenge us violently for the recent outrage made to the trio on a private channel (decency forbids us to mention the name of the program…). Although defined as a remake-pastiche of the Postman always rings twice of Tay Garnettthe film by Jean Pierre Vergne above all takes up more or less all the criteria of a survey at the Nestor Burma, with a not-so-lonely private detective, competing police, voice-over reflections, saxophone in the background and a deserted office atmosphere that smells of cold tobacco. And above that, the tape limits itself to making ever more nonsensical a police investigation already well telephoned at the base (a serial killer murders women by crushing a telephone receiver on their forehead), by making sure that each scene serves more to “absurdify” the story and the situations than to make them more coherent. which does not prevent Vergne to cement his editing with great care, using at leisure strident sound effects and accelerations of rhythm at the most opportune moments, until a very frank climax in terms of end point.

However, if the care given to the invoice and the atmosphere is clearly there (the codes of film noir are respected here to the letter), what we retain here is not limited to that. The mere presence of our three future champions of parody fun is in itself a sufficient argument, and for good reason: each one already embraces a role that will come up very often during the great hours of Unknownwhether it is the leader, the charmer or the loser (the roles are interchangeable). Smain and Seymour Brussel, for their part, take on more closed registers at full speed – the candid chat for one, the mastoc virility for the other. As for the innumerable sidekicks that sometimes invite themselves for the time of a reply or a furtive shot (Darry Cowl, Jean Reno, Clémentine Célarié, Jean Yanne, Michel Constantin, Patrick Sébastienthe future notary of the Three Brothers…), they almost play satellites around a Jean-Claude Brialy who monopolizes the frame all the more because his character of surly cop tends to want to recover on his own account the efforts of the other investigators. And if the inequality of the gags is here a corollary of their profusion, the result does not stop re-rolling the dice of its story at each incident and thus counteracting any drop in rhythm.

Add to that small visual and sound gimmicks here and there (lovers of Josephine Bakerof Marilyn Monroe and even Numbers and Letters will tilt in a few scenes…), cinematographic winks more or less felt (some scenes look just like quotes from Cruising and D’Alfred Hitchcock) as well as a song-leitmotiv signed by the trio under the name of the group Catcar & Co (fans will love it), and you’ll find a solid cure for the doom here. However, an insistent rumor suggests that the unknown would keep a rather bad memory of the film (we insist on the conditional). We’ll wait to find out more about it, but in terms of continuing to ring the phone of this film, it is not likely to be limited to twice!


Directed by: Jean-Pierre Vergne

Cast: Didier Bourdon, Seymour Brussel, Bernard Campan

Genre: Comedy

Released: January 23, 1985

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