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Film / Le Capitaine Fracasse

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Le Capitaine Fracasse (Captain Fracassa) is a 1961 French swashbuckler film directed and written by Pierre Gaspard-Huit, based on the novel of the same name by Théophile Gautier.

It tells the story of baron Philippe of Sigognac (Jean Marais), an early 17th century destitute nobleman who decides to abandon his castle to join the Commedia dell'Arte theatre troupe of Hérode (Philippe Noiret) out of love for Isabelle (Geneviève Grad), the young actress who plays The Ingenue. But Isabelle is soon stalked by the Duke of Vallombreuse (Gérard Barray), who desires her for himself no matter how she rejects his advances.

See also the 1990 film adaptation, Captain Fracassa's Journey, which largely did away with the swashbuckler genre.

Le Capitain Fracasse provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Age Lift: Sigognac is a "young man" in the novel, he's played by then-48 year old Jean Marais.
  • And This Is for...: The mooks who ambush Sigognac have orders to beat him up and tell him they did it on behalf of Vallombreuse, in retaliation for opposing the latter's Villainous Crush on Isabelle. They all end up KOed without landing a single blow on Sigognac. At the end of the fight, the last mook standing repeatedly tries to utter it while trying to hit Sigognac, but only manages to do so when he's down.
  • Anti-Villain: The duke of Vallombreuse (played by Gérard Barray). Instead of being purely an evil aristocrat, he is a rather misguided man who's suffered from Parental Neglect and let his passions take over rational thinking. He survives being Impaled with Extreme Prejudice and gets a chance at redemption at the end.
  • Art Imitates Art: The Commedia dell'Arte figures drawn in the opening credits emulate the art of Jacques Callot.
  • Badass Boast: Sigognac, to Vallombreuse: "I receive beatings on stage only. Outside, I give them."
  • Carry a Big Stick: Hérode's weapon is a big wooden club.
  • The Cavalier Years: Set in the first half of the 17th century in France.
  • Combat Compliment: Lampourde is impressed by Sigognac's mastery of the rapier and compliments him when they are duelling.
  • Commedia dell'Arte: Hérode's troupe is a pretty good example of Commedia dell'Arte theatre. The Italian names of the archetypal roles were just francized.
  • Determinator: Vallombreuse stops at nothing to try to kidnap Isabelle.
  • Due to the Dead: Matamore dies of malnutrition and cold. He is buried by the troupe on a roadside, as theatre actors were excommunicated by the Church and thus forbidden to be buried in cemeteries. The only thing they can do to honor him is to applaud him, one last time.
  • The Grand Hunt: At the beginning of the film, a bunch of wealthy nobles are on a hunt on horses. The horse of the lady they took with them starts to run uncontrollably after getting scared by Matamore when the lady bumps on the theatre troupe, and Sigognac rushes in to save her.
  • Guns Akimbo: Scapin dual-wields flintlock pistols during the assault on Vallombreuse's castle in the climax.
  • Historical Domain Character: Louis XIII appears in one scene, played by René Charvey.
  • Honor Before Reason: Sigognac lives and breathes this trope, just like Jean Marais' other swashbuckler roles at the time. Vallombreuse lacked of respect to Sigognac due to him playing in a low condition theatre troupe and sent mooks to beat him up. To avenge this, Sigognac demands a duel to the first blood, and wins it.
  • Hot Gypsy Woman: Chiquita fits that archetype, although her hotness is not brought up.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Philippe of Sigognac is a baron, but he's penniless. He dresses modestly, his castle is falling in ruins and he has trouble finding meat to eat.
  • Incest-ant Admirer: It turns out Isabelle and Vallombreuse are half-siblings, although Vallombreuse doesn't know it and keeps going after Isabelle.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Matamore coughs a lot in the scenes preceeding his death.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Sigognac, in keeping with the other late 1950s/early 1960s swashbuckler roles of Jean Marais. He will stop at absolutely nothing to defend his honor and protect Isabelle, or save people in danger.
  • Large Ham:
    • In-Universe. It's a requirement to play the archetypal Commedia dell'Arte role of the Captain. The troupe's actor who played the Captain dies, and he has to be replaced. Sigognac volunteers to replace him, and hams it up on stage.
    • Hérode is one even outside the stage. And a Boisterous Bruiser too.
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen:
    • Sigognac provokes Vallombreuse into a duel to the first blood for lacking of respect to him.
    • Lampourde is hired to kill Sigognac. His ambush on Sigognac turns into a gentlemanly duel.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: The Prince of Moussy figures out Isabelle is his long-lost daughter from a love relation he had with her mother. He reveals it to her at the end.
  • Master Swordsman: Sigognac and Lampourde are formidable fencers. Lampourde actually asks Sigognac about the master sworsdman who trained him and name-drops a list of famous people in that field, only for Sigognac to answer that it was an old soldier employed by his father who trained him.
  • Matron Chaperone: Dame Léonarde usuallt plays the duenna on stage.
  • May–December Romance: Going by the actors' age, Isabelle is 21 years younger than Sigognac.
  • Memento MacGuffin: Isabelle's ring. It was given to her mother by the Prince of Moussy, Vallombreuse's father (and her mother's lover). This is how he eventually recognizes her and legitimates her.
  • Mercy Kill: Chiquita stabs Agostin, her own love, in the heart, right in the middle of his Public Execution. She does so to prevent him from suffering a death by caning.
  • Nice Guy: Sigognac is undeniably good at heart.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Scapin, as befitting with Louis de Funès. Although, and it's quite unusual, De Funès is far from stealing the movie due to the role not being as important and hammy as those he took the following years, which cemented his massive success as a comic actor.
  • Roaring Rampage of Rescue: Nothing can stop Sigognac in the climax as he storms the castle and tears through Vallombreuse's men to rescue Isabelle.
  • Roguish Poacher: Sigognac's servant poaches on hunting lands that don't belong to his lord so his non-wealthy lord can have some good things for dinner at least.
  • Same Language Dub: Italian actor Ricardo Garrone (Jaquemin Lampourde) had to be dubbed in French as he didn't speak the language very well. The dubbing actor was Roger Rudel, the most prominent French voice of Kirk Douglas.
  • The Show Must Go On: When Matamore dies, the troupe is desperate about how they will be able to perform at the castle they are invited too since they need a Captain. Sigognac then volunteers to replace him.
  • Sore Loser: Vallombreuse loses the duel against Sigognac, but that doesn't stop him from swearing revenge and kidnapping Isabelle.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Vallombreuse won't let go of his crush on Isabelle and follows her trace up until he kidnaps her.
  • Storming the Castle: In the climax, Sigognac, Hérode, Lampourte and Scapin storm the castle in which Vallombreuse is detaining Isabelle. And they don't need to be numerous to do so.
  • Surprise Incest: Almost happens. Vallombreuse fancies Isabelle and kidnaps her, not knowing she is his half-sister.
  • Title Drop: Following Sigognac's foolish and fearless jump in action against the Gypsy couple who attacked the troupe's convoy and put dummies on the roadside to look like they were more numerous, Léandre compares Sigognac to the Capitaine Fracasse, one of the French names for the Commedia dell'Arte's Captain. Sigognac then adopts that moniker on stage.
  • Truer to the Text: Minus the Age Lift for Sigognac, it's the most faithful adaptation of the novel to date.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Vallombreuse underestimates Sigognac big time. Especially when sending mooks after him. They all end up getting their ass kicked.
  • Villainous Crush: The duke of Vallombreuse fancies Isabelle... and she doesn't return it. It doesn't stop him and he sets out to kidnap her, then locks her in his castle. She keeps rejecting his advances, and he enjoys it. Worse is that she's his half-sister, although he doesn't know it.
  • Warrior Poet: Sigognac writes verses, and he's a matchless swordsman. Although, what he writes is pretty bad poetry by his own admission.
  • What a Drag: In an unsuccessful attempt to rescue Isabelle, Sigognac ends up dragged behind the horse of the mook who kidnapped her.