On Guard | Chicago Reader

On Guard

On the basis of his earliest features, French filmmaker Philippe de Broca was sometimes regarded as a member of the New Wave, but subsequent films such as Cartouche (1962) and That Man From Rio (1964) showed him to be an adept commercial director. This entertaining 1998 swashbuckler, based on Paul Feval's 1857 novel Le bossu (“The Hunchback”) and shot in 'Scope, proves that de Broca hasn't lost his touch. This is effective as straight-ahead, action-packed storytelling, losing some of its energy only in the final stretch of its 128 minutes. The cast is especially good, including Daniel Auteuil as the peripatetic hero (an acrobat-turned-chevalier-turned-actor), Fabrice Luchini as the villain, and Vincent Perez, Marie Gillain, and Philippe Noiret. It's a pity that the distributors didn't stick to the original title, that of the novel, and substituted the graceless and unnecessary English translation of a French fencing term. In French with subtitles.

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