Saturday, July 26, 2008

Welcome to the Sticks

We saw this after Ben X and it was probably the ideal follow-up - something completely silly to take your mind off darker things. If you've never been to a French farce, it's time to rectify the situation, whether you need distracting or not.

Welcome to the Sticks is a comedy that celebrates life in the Pas de Calais Region of Northern France where its a little cool and the natives speak funny. I suppose most countries have a north/south or an east/west divide and generally the warmer option is considered the place to be and so the people who are churlish enough to dwell in the cooler less populous region are considered foolish, eccentric and backward. And so it is in this film - a post-office manager from Provence is transferred north for bad behaviour and of course is completely dismayed by the prospect, as is his wife who refuses to join him. The actuality proves far more congenial than he imagined - his co-workers (around whom the film centres) are welcoming, charming and hospitable. The manager's wife seems unable to believe this, so he strings her along in thinking he is suffering in his new environment - and this is one of the films long-running gags, which culminates when his wife decides that she'll come and keep him company.

The other long-running gag is that the natives in the Pas de Calais region pronounce "s" as "ch" - and say "ti" and "mi" rather than "toi" and "moi" hence their nickname "Ch'ti" and use a bunch of quaint slang, so lots of the comedy is poking fun at this and exploiting the potential for misunderstanding. You'd think that for a non french- speaking audience that these jokes would fall flat, but the sub-titling is absolutely brilliant and the gags are well-sustained.There's physical comedy too - the manager and the postie cycling through Bergues visiting customers while trying not to accept alcoholic refreshment is wonderful, as is the "kidnapping" of the manager's wife in a post-office van.

Just to add another level to the story there's a dual love affair going on - that of the postman with one of the counter staff, and that of the manager for his new home so its a completely satisfying film.

Anne's rating 4/5
Ian's rating 4/5

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