Les Tontons Flingueurs

Mr Yahho visisted the Star Pitt Office, Penang, Malyasia on 21 July 2016 to watch the film of "Les Tontons Flingueurs de Georges Lautner avec Lino Ventura, Bernard Blier, Francis Blanche, etc" and the following is the report:


Since the dawn of cinema, France has simultaneously and uninterruptedly produced good mainstream movies and arthouse films. Georges Lautner, who has died aged 87, unabashedly claimed that the almost 50 films he directed from 1958 to 1992 belong to the former category. Lautner's mainly cops-and-robbers movies were among the most popular films ever made in France.

"I didn't want glory or to make masterpieces but popular films that would please the greatest number," he once explained. "International recognition didn't interest me. I was passionate at what I did with my faithful team. We made the films we wanted as quickly as possible. But with time, my commercial films appear almost intellectual."

Lautner's underestimated films were never invited to Cannes until, in 2012, the festival put together a belated "Homage to Georges Lautner". His death prompted President François Hollande to declare that his films had "become part of the cinematic heritage of our country". Some of them also accrued the epithet "cult", in particular Les Tontons Flingueurs (1963), rendered variously in English as Monsieur Gangster or Crooks in Clover (literally The Killer Uncles). Barely a few weeks before Lautner died, a street in Nantes was named Rue des Tontons Flingueurs, because of one mention of a character called Lulu la Nantaise, evoked by Bernard Blier in a hilarious scene in which a group of gangsters get blotto around a kitchen table.

The scène de la cuisine is among the most celebrated in France, the dialogue of which many filmgoers know by heart, as well as other lines written by Michel Audiard, a master of witty and biting French argot. One line in the film, "Les cons ça ose tout. C'est même à ça qu'on les reconnaît" ("Idiots dare everything. That's how we recognise them"), spoken by Lino Ventura, has become part of the French lexicon, in roughly the same way that British audiences still appreciate "Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it in for me!" from Carry on Cleo.

Apart from a justifiably forgotten thriller, Presumed Dangerous (1990), with Robert Mitchum in a supporting role, Lautner's only English-language film was the bizarre Road to Salina (1970) starring Mimsy Farmer, Robert Walker Jr and Rita Hayworth, shot mostly in the Canary Islands. Quentin Tarantino used a song from the film in Kill Bill Volume 2.

Lautner was born in Nice, the son of a Viennese jeweller and aviator, and Marie Louise Vittore who, as Renée Saint-Cyr, was a film star, later appearing in 11 of her son's movies. At the age of seven, Lautner went to Paris when his mother started her film career, and discovered cinema. After leaving school, he began to get odd jobs in the studios. An apprenticeship as assistant director led to his first films as director.

After three lukewarm dramas, Lautner found his forte with Le Monocle Noir (The Black Monocle, 1961), freely adapted from the memoirs of Colonel Rémy, a secret agent during the second world war. Lautner turned it into a comedy-thriller starring Paul Meurisse as a spy known as "the Monocle", because he covered his one blind eye with a black monocle. Meurisse's delightfully eccentric, tongue-in-cheek performance was repeated in equally successful sequels: L'Oeil du Monocle (The Eye of the Monocle, 1962) and Le Monocle Rit Jaune (The Monocle, 1964).

Although Lautner continued to make hit parodic comedies during the 1960s, such as Les Tontons Flingueurs and Les Barbouzes (The Great Spy Chase, 1964), he occasionally strayed into drama. In fact, his favourite film was Le Septième Juré (The Seventh Juror, 1962) about a married man (Blier) who kills a girl spurning his advances. When her disreputable boyfriend is charged with the crime, he finds himself on the jury. Lautner handles the twists of the plot and the ironic ending with aplomb.

The murder melodrama Galia (1966) had a fairly profitable release in the UK and the US, mainly because of the disrobed presence of the ex-model Mireille Darc, who starred in a dozen of Lautner's films. In fact, the director tried to keep the same team from film to film: the actors Darc, Ventura, Blier, Francis Blanche and Jean Lefebvre; writer Audiard; and cinematographer Maurice Fellous.

"What interests him is to have good actors and a good writer," Fellous remarked. "He would say: 'If you make me a beautiful picture, you're going to take an hour. That's money I won't have for a better actor for the second or third role.' But he would add: 'In each of my movies, you will have one sequence to have your fun with.'"

There were plenty of sequences the cinematographer could have fun with in lively cop dramas such as Le Pacha (Pasha, 1968), in which Jean Gabin brings his dominating presence to bear as a world-weary police inspector; Il Était une Fois un Flic (Flic Story, 1971) and Flic ou Voyou (Cop or Hood, 1979), the latter the first of five Lautner films starring Jean-Paul Belmondo.

One of them, Le Professionnel (The Professional, 1981) – Lautner's biggest box-office success of the 80s – was an entertaining action movie with an energetic Belmondo as a secret agent. Lautner's final feature was L'Inconnu dans la Maison (Stranger in the House, 1992) in which a subdued Belmondo plays an ageing drunken lawyer investigating a murder.

Lautner's wife, Caroline, whom he met in 1949, died almost 20 years ago. He is survived by his daughter, Alice, and son, Thomas.

• Georges Lautner, film director, born 24 January 1926; died 22 November 2013

Guardian, Last modified on Monday 2 December 2013 13.48 GMT
Georges Lautner obituary
Director of witty French comedy-thrillers

By Ronald Bergan

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