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Film / La Cuisine au beurre

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La Cuisine au beurre (meaning "Cooking with butter") is a 1963 French-Italian comedy film directed by Gilles Grangier, starring Bourvil and Fernandel.

After the end of World War II, Fernand Jouvin (Fernandel), a French POW, has spent 10 years in Tyrol, living with Gerda, his Austrian mistress. He has to go back to Martigues, a small town in Provence, because the legitimate husband of Gerda is back after 10 years of captivity in Russia. He soon discovers that his French wife, Christiane, who thought he was dead, is now married to André Colombey (Bourvil), a guy from Normandy. Moreover, his restaurant, which only served local food, is transformed into a high-class restaurant, which serves Norman food.

La Cuisine au beurre provides examples of:

  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Fernand disappeared during the war. His wife Christiane started a relationship with André and got married with him when Fernand was declared dead.
  • Accidental Adultery: A lawyer tells Christiane that she committed adultery. She did not realize it since her first husband was Legally Dead.
  • All Work vs. All Play: André is a hard-working guy. He devotes his life to his restaurant, which is very successful. Fernand is a lazy guy, who spends most of his life having naps, having glasses with his friends, fishing, and playing petanque. Fernand will teach André to enjoy life.
  • …But He Sounds Handsome: When Fernand visits the restaurant incognito, he tells André that the former boss was a great cook. André answers that his cuisine was made of canned food.
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: In the end, Fernand gives up his pursuit of Christiane. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for him, Gerda, his Austrian mistress, shows up, so he does not end up alone.
  • Dance of Romance: When Fernand and Christiane are dancing a tango, André thinks that Christiane is falling in love with Fernand again, especially when she kisses him. Subverted: actually, Christiane kisses Fernand because he has finally signed the paper that allows her to divorce him.
  • "Everybody Laughs" Ending: In the end, André and Fernand are laughing at a joke whispered by Fernand in André's ear.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: Fernand pretends that he was prisoner in Siberia during ten years. He pretends that he survived nightmarish conditions of detention. Therefore he is celebrated as a hero by the townsfolk and by the press. His whole story is a lie: he lived confortably in Tyrol with his mistress Gerda.
  • Foot-Dragging Divorcee: Since Fernand is alive, Christiane must divorce him to get married to André again. First, Fernand has to sign a paper to be recognized as a living person, so that Christiane can divorce him afterwards. Fernand is reluctant to sign this paper, because he is still attracted to Christiane.
  • Henpecked Husband: Christiane runs the restaurant, while André works a lot in the kitchen. She sets his alarm for five o'clock and she does not want him to take a day off. In the end, André's situation has not changed and Fernand ends up in the same situation towards Gerda. In the final scene, both are working hard in the kitchen under the supervision of their wives.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: Fernand tells André that he works as a slave for his wife. André answers that Fernand is wrong: he does whatever he wants. Then he looks at his watch and says that he has to go to bed because Christiane set the alarm for five o'clock.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Fernand ultimately accepts to divorce Christiane and he signs the paper. He even goes to Normandy to convince André to come back.
  • Legally Dead: Fernand has been missing for a long time after the war and he is officially declared dead, so that Christiane can marry André. After his return, he first has to take action to be recognized as a living person, so that Christiane can divorce him.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Gerda is Fernand's mistress, but his legitimate husband comes back. Fernand was married to Christiane, who is now married to André. Gerda's husband has a mistress in Russia too and he leaves Gerda for her.
  • Media Scrum: Many journalists want to interview Fernand when he comes back home and tells his made-up heroic deeds in Siberia.
  • The Mistress: Fernand, who is married to Christiane, lived during 10 years with Gerda, his Austrian mistress (who is married too).
  • Nothing Is Funnier: Fernand and André have a discussion about their respective intimate life with Christiane. They whisper in each other's ear and the audience cannot hear what they say, but they burst into laughter.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Christiane's mother is unpleasant with both Fernand and André. She wants them to work all the time.
  • Oops! I Forgot I Was Married: Christiane married André, because her first husband Fernand was Legally Dead. Ten years later, Fernand comes back.
  • Orphaned Setup: In the end, Fernand tells André a joke, but he whispers the punchline in André's ear, so we cannot hear it. They burst into laughter.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Everybody in Martigues thinks that Fernand is dead during the war. He is Legally Dead. His name is even written on the monument to the fallen.
  • Romancing the Widow: André charmed Christiane who was officially a widow. Subverted when it turns out his first husband is still alive.
  • Second Love: Christiane loved Fernand. She cried a lot when he was declared dead. Then she fell in love with André. Now she does not want to leave him.
  • Unreliable Voiceover: As Fernand recounts the hardship he experienced during his supposed stay in Siberia, a Flashback shows the fun he had in Tyrol.