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Film / A Crime in Paradise

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A Crime in Paradise (French: Un crime au Paradis) is a 2001 French Black Comedy film directed by Jean Becker, adapted by Sébastien Japrisot from the 1951 film La Poison by Sacha Guitry, and starring Jacques Villeret, Josiane Balasko, André Dussollier and Gérard Hernandez.

The story takes place in 1980, in Saint-Julien-sur-Bibost, a French village in the Lyon area. Joseph "Jojo" Braconnier is an unhappy farmer who's married to Lucienne aka "Lulu", a nagging shrew and alcoholic who torments him everyday with nasty pranks and insults. Their farm is called "Le Paradis" ("The Paradise"), but life there is anything but, and Jojo cannot ask for divorce since the farm technically belongs to Lulu, who inherited it from her family. One day, Jojo hears of a brilliant lawyer who has just achieved his twenty-fifth acquittal. Very impressed, Jojo seeks the lawyer out and tells him he killed his wife, then listens to the lawyer's advices in order to prepare the true murder. Meanwhile, Lulu also sets out to murder Jojo.


A Crime in Paradise provides examples of the following tropes:

  • The '80s: The story is set in 1980, when death penalty wasn't abolished in France yet — it happened one year later.
  • The Alcoholic: Lulu drinks booze and wine all the time and has the characteristic red features of it on her face.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: Lulu sexually assaulted Jojo when they were younger, then she coerced him into marrying her.
  • Asshole Victim: Lulu ends up dead, but no-one misses her afterwards.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Lulu and Jojo didn't marry out of love to begin with, and Lulu progressively made Jojo's life a hell as time passed. Jojo can't divorce lest he wants to end up with nothing. The only solace Jojo has is his stamps collection... which Lulu ends up burning out of spite.
  • Catchphrase Insult: Lulu always insults Jojo with "Couille sèche!" (translation: "Dry ball"/"dry testicle").
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  • Convulsive Seizures: The prosecutor who ends up drinking the glass of wine that Lulu poisoned with strychnine convulses afterwards.
  • Divorce Requires Death: The only way for Jojo to get rid of Lulu without losing everything in a divorce is, well, to kill her.
  • The Dog Bites Back: One day, Jojo has enough of Lulu's spite and pranks and saws the steps of a ladder Lulu later has to use, which causes her to fall and break her leg.
  • Dying Dream: Before Lulu's death, Jojo dreams of being condemned to death for her murder. The dream stops just as his head is put under the guillotine's blade.
  • Grave-Marking Scene: Lulu often visits the grave of her deceased sister to tell her about the latest nasty prank she pulled on Jojo.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Lulu tries killing Jojo with a bread knife during the dinner the night after Jojo told the lawyer he killed her and sought advices. A struggle ensues, she ends up stabbed and dies.
  • Ironic Nickname: The farm is called "The Paradise", but it's actually hell there for Jojo due to his wife tormenting him.
  • Jerkass: Lulu is a nasty piece of work who's a jerk to everyone but her physiotherapist and dead sister, and she makes Jojo's life a hell. She insults him everyday, deliberately sabotages his farm work, burns his stamps collection, puts an overdose of salt in his soup telling him she peed in it, and so on and so forth. Jojo does respond with pranks in turn, but he goes nowhere as far as Lulu.
  • Nice Guy: Jojo is a peaceful farmer who's far from exhibiting the same jerkassery as his wife. Too bad she makes his life a hell.
  • The Prankster: Lulu sabotages Jojo's farm work on a regular basis purely out of spite, which causes an Escalating War.
  • Sustained Misunderstanding: The only living person Lulu is nice to is her physiotherapist, named Jacky. He's so good at doing massages to her that she almost has orgasms. It turns out Jojo's Best Friend is also named Jacky, and that Jacky advises Jojo to have Lulu have sex so her behavior could improve (not implying Jojo or someone else should do it). One night, Jojo hears Lulu talk in her sleep about "Jacky" and his hands, and happily thinks his friend had sex with her. He keeps thinking that for the remainder of the film, not aware that she was referring to her physiotherapist.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink:
    • Lulu puts an overdose of salt in Jojo's soup, which makes it inedible for him. When he asks her what she did to his soup after tasting it, she pretends she urinated in it.
    • Lulu then tries poisoning Jojo, by putting strychnine (a rodenticide) in his wine. She dies before Jojo has the occasion to drink it however, and it's an unfortunate prosecutor who ends up drinking it during the investigation on the crime scene.
  • Til Murder Do Us Part: Both Jojo and Lulu secretely plan to kill one another (Jojo because Lulu makes his life a hell, and Lulu because it's the culmination of her hatred of her husband and jerkass behavior). It's Lulu who bites it, eventually.
  • We Were Rehearsing a Play: An odd case since Jojo goes to the lawyer to confess a murder he hasn't committed yet, in order to hear the lawyer's advices and better stage Lulu's death.


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