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Film / La Cité de la peur

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La Cité de la peur ("The City of Fear") is a 1994 movie written by and starring the French comedy group Les Nuls (Alain Chabat, Chantal Lauby and Dominique Farrugia) and directed by Alain Berberian. Heavily inspired in tone by the Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker movies, it is considered to be one of the few examples of a successful attempt to transpose a television comedy group to the big screen.

The plot is as follows : Odile Deray, a publicist, has trouble promoting an atrociously bad horror movie, Red Is Dead, about a Communist-themed serial killer. But just as the Cannes Film Festival starts, the projectionists of the movie get killed one by one by what seems to be a copycat of the movie's killer. Jumping on the occasion, she decides to use this unwanted publicity for building up the hype around the movie. As such, she gets the main actor of the movie, Simon Jérémi, to come to the festival, and hires a bodyguard, Serge Karamazov, to look after the two of them. Meanwhile, detective Patrick Biallès tries to resolve the murders, and additionally starts a relationship with Odile. Cue completely surreal scenes and parodies for 90 minutes.

The movie has garnered quite a fanbase since its release, and is often considered as one of the funniest French comedies ever made.

La Cité de la peur provides examples of :

  • Ask a Stupid Question...
    Serge: [after watching all the luminous neons and signposts with the mention "Odile Deray" directed at Odile] Are you Odile Deray?
    Odile: No, I'm the Pope and I'm waiting for my sister.
  • "Basic Instinct" Legs-Crossing Parody: The film includes a police interrogation sequence spoofing the scene, featuring a sensual sauerkraut eating.
  • Bond One-Liner: Parodied in Red is Dead.
    Simon: Die, communist scum!
  • Cat Scare: The banana. To elaborate: at some point, Emile is told he could be shot by an isolated sniper, but "that would be really unlucky". A few seconds later, a passerby reaches for something in his vest while looking at him... and produces a banana.
  • Credits Gag: The movie credits Bruce Wayne as Batman, Tullavu as Kim Onku ("Have you seen it? What? My ass!"), Gaston Lagaffe as the gaffer, or Çaenfait played by Dumondehein ("there are a lot of people, aren't there?"). There's also a line about the number of sugar lumps put by one of the actresses in her teacup and how people should watch the movie again just to count them.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Simon: "Did I mention I'm a projectionist?" Incidentally, he's the first projectionist to survive the murderer.
  • Dirty Communists: Yuri, the hammer & sickle killer from Red Is Dead.
  • The Ditz: Simon Jérémi, oh. so much. We're introduced to him by way of his being attended by a hostess just like a child who'd have to take a plane alone, and as he's asked if he has luggage, he immediately answers that if he's been told to come, nobody told him to take some luggage with him...
  • Don't Explain the Joke
    Serge: I'm Serge Karamazov. Not related, I'm an only child.
  • Double Entendre: Invoked.
    Biallès: Do you want a whiskey?
    Odile: Just a finger. (IOW: just a little bit)
    Biallès: Are you sure you don't want a whiskey first?
  • Everyone Hates Mimes:
    Serge: Get out of the way! You stupid mimes!
  • Foreshadowing:
    • "Hey, look! The killer has cut his finger!"
    • "I'm gonna die in two minutes!"
  • Gratuitous English: More like a case of Gratuitous English Accent, but still:
    Serge: I think we're dealing with a serial killer. [American accent, scare chord]
    Odile: A what?
    Serge: A serial killer. [same accent, same scare chord]
    Odile: A what?
    Serge: [sighs] A sérial killeur [drops the accent]
    Odile: Aaaaaah, a serial killer. [American accent, scare chord]
  • Handsome Lech: Serge claims to have had sex with every single person he had to protect. Including Prince Charles.
  • Hurricane of Puns
  • Indecisive Parody: A borderline example: the movie starts with the end of Red Is Dead, the horror movie Odile is supposed to advertise. It is supposed to be extremely bad, but it is already filled with the kind of jokes we'll find all throughout the rest of the movie, so the viewers don't really know if they're watching a bad horror movie, a parody of bad horror movies, or a bad parody of bad horror movies. Doesn't stop the segment from being funny as hell, though.
  • It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: The film is set in Cannes, and of course happens during the city's Film Festival. It was actually filmed in July, whereas the festival traditionally occurs in May, so the festival's ambiance had to be recreated.
  • Meanwhile Scene: Parodied. While Karamazov is chasing the killer, the camera cuts to a completely random and unrelated scene set in Vera Cruz, Mexico, with a vocal message "Meanwhile, in Vera Cruz." Then the film cuts back to the chase.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: In one scene, Serge runs after the killer. It's treated like a car chase scene, complete with engine sound effects, traffic sounds, tires screeching and a passerby exploding after being shoved away by Serge.
  • Potty Emergency: Karamazov has one at the worst moment, that is, while chasing the killer through the streets of Cannes. And he farts all the way through.
  • Prone to Vomiting: Simon vomits every time he is happy. And he is often happy.
  • Running Gag: Simon vomiting every time he's happy, Emile's bad breath ("take a piece of gum, Emile...") and inability to deliver the saying about how you can fool one man one time, but not one thousand men one time... No, wait... One thousand men one thousand times, but not one man one thousand times... Ah, screw this...
  • Shout-Out: To The Terminator ("Sarah Connor?" "It's next door."), Basic Instinct, and to several advertising campaigns of the time.
  • Show Within a Show:
    • The Red Is Dead movie.
    • The whole movie is actually this, thanks to the "making our own sound effects because lack of budget" scene.
  • Stylistic Suck: "Because of budgetary restriction, the next scene will be entirely soundtracked by mouth." Hilarity Ensues, particularly because the "dubbers" aren't very good at it.
  • Visual Pun: A lot of them. One particular example is a cop who's warning detective Biallès that "There's such a butchery in here" (meaning that the crime scene is really bloody), only to open up a door to an actual butcher's shop.
  • Well, This Is Not That Trope: The Trailer contains a subversion of the typical movie comparisons routine:
    Voice-over: If you liked Jurassic Park, The Piano, The Fugitive... well, we liked those movies too.