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Carnival in Flanders (La Kermesse Héroique)
15Carnival In Flanders (La Kermesse Héroique) (1935)

updated 17 May 2004
reviewer's rating
4 out of 5
Reviewed by Jamie Russell


Director
Jacques Feyder
Writer
Charles Spaak
Bernard Zimmer
Stars
Françoise Rosay
Micheline Cheirel
Lyne Clevers
Maryse Wendling
Ginette Gaubert
Length
116 minutes
Distributor
BFI
Original
1935
Cinema
04 June 2004
Country
France/Germany
Genre
Drama
World Cinema


Men are cowardly lions and women are cunning minxes in this little-seen French farce about the Spanish invasion of Flanders in the 17th century. A ribald and riotously funny take on the sex war, it's the naughty but oh-so-nice tale of a group of determined Flemish ladies who use all their womanly charms to outwit the invading soldiers. Chock full of outrageously saucy gags, it's chiefly remembered for its timely take on issues of occupation and collaboration - which led it to be banned in Nazi Germany.

When Spanish invaders ride into the isolated market town of Boom, the menfolk are the first to panic. Convinced they'll be overrun by soldiers and only interested in saving their own necks, they quickly put down their arms and go into hiding. Not even the mayor (André Alerme) has the mettle to stand up to the invaders: he fakes his own death and spends the occupation lying in his bed pretending to be a corpse.

With the men turning lily-livered, it's left to the mayor's impetuous wife (Françoise Rosay) to lead the town. Rounding up the ladies, she sets a cunning plan into motion. The women will use their feminine wiles to seduce the invaders and save the town from being pillaged.

"A WICKEDLY FAST-PACED COMEDY"

Full of earthy pleasures - eating, drinking and some surprisingly cheeky bedroom merrymaking - Carnival Of Flanders is a wickedly fast-paced comedy that greets its audience with a sly series of nods and winks. The carnival tradition has always been about letting the poor and powerless be king (or queen) for a day, and it's no different here as order is eventually re-established. Before it returns, though, director Jacques Feyder ensures that we sympathise with the women, not the dunderheaded buffoons they're married to.

In French with English subtitles.

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