The Film Society’s 2012 Gala honoree Catherine Deneuve and Yves Montand co-star in this unlikely, lightning-paced screwball farce set in Venezuela, restored and presented in the 2011 Cannes Film Festival’s “Classics” section. Deneuve gives a game performance as Nelly, a runaway mafia bride and scam artist who barges into the hotel room of Martin (Montand), a self-sufficient “sauvage” who’s in Caracas to pick up supplies before returning to the seclusion of his desert-island retreat. Pursued by both her berserk, ranting fiancé Vittorio (Luigi Vannucchi), and an ex-lover (Tony Roberts!) who’s fallen victim to one of her scams, she takes advantage of Martin at every turn while he gives as good as he gets. Each outwits and turns the tables on the other until they wind up on Martin’s island, where Nelly continues to wreak havoc on his life. Montand and Deneuve’s hectic performances are winning in a slapstick comic romp that’s nothing if not broad, but it’s a pleasure to watch these two actors go head to head working with the flimsiest of material. Ostensibly a far cry from the would-be prestige pictures (The Horseman on the Roof, Cyrano de Bergerac) in writer-director Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s future, in fact Le sauvage confirms that his cinematic DNA is pure kitsch.
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