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Criterion rarely trots out fare like the French film “Fanfan la Tulipe.”  The company which specializes in releasing dark and challenging cinematic material from around the world has dug up this light hearted adventure film from the early 50’s.

“Fanfan” stars Gerard Philipe playing a rake and romancer who gets caught diddling the farmer’s daughter in a haystack.  While being forcibly taken at pitchforks end to the church to marry the now deflowered dear, Fanfan dodges the bullet by running off and joining the army.  He meets a buxomly gypsy who convinces him of a fate which destines him to marry the kings daughter.  And then some other stuff happens and some more stuff happens and so on and so forth.  Overall it feels like the French attempting an Errol Flynn movie and mixing it up with their more bawdy sensibilities.  Gypsy girl Gina Lollobrigida has ample bosom so remarkable that they deserve their own billing above the title.  While most of the cast is enjoyable to various degrees, no one can quite compare to her pair.  The cover to the left proves as much.

While initially a humorous lark with the wit of a true smart ass powering it, “Fanfan” slowly loses its romantically dipped funny bone in favor of clunky action scenes and chase sequences.  Too many people start chasing one another and eventually you just want the thing to settle back down into the vibe it had to start with.  The sword fighting sequences are solid for the time, but time is never nice to pieces like this.  Too many people seem to fall over because someone tapped them with a sword.  Fans of old time adventure romance pieces will very much enjoy this.  Others maybe not so much.

On a side note, I would vote this as the worst DVD cover Criterion has ever produced.  Their history and ability of stellar covers to their releases completely eludes them in this case.  At best it’s generic looking, at worst, something you pick up in a Wal-Mart DVD bin by mistake.


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