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Film / The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe

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The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe (French: Le Grand Blond avec une chaussure noire) is a 1972 French comedy film directed by Yves Robert and written by Yves Robert and Francis Veber, starring Pierre Richard, Jean Rochefort, Bernard Blier, Mireille Darc and Jean Carmet. The film's sequel, The Return of the Tall Blond Man (Le Retour du Grand Blond), was released in 1974. Vladimir Cosma composed the scores of both films.

The films tell the story of François Perrin, a hapless orchestra player who becomes an unwitting pawn of rival factions within the French secret service after he is chosen as a decoy by being identified as a super secret agent (he wore a brown shoe on one foot and a black shoe on the other that day, hence the title).

The film was remade in English as The Man with One Red Shoe.

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    Both Films 
  • Hollywood Silencer:
    • In the first film, several government spies use silenced guns that, when fired, emit only a puff of smoke with no sound at all.
    • The killers sent after François in the sequel have guns and a sniper rifle that emit sounds akin to plastic pipes hitting something in the sequel, not unlike the guns in Les Tontons flingueurs.
  • Mistaken for Badass:
    • In the first film, Toulouse makes Milan believe that François is a super agent. Milan is still more convinced because he cannot find anything suspicious in François's past life. When Milan decided to liquidate François, he is lucky enough to survive.
    • In the sequel, Toulouse's plan backfires on him the moment the minister wants to see François, and he's forced to explain everything to François and have him actually act as if he was a spy.
  • Mistaken for Spies:
    • François is marked as a spy by infighting government high-ups in the first film - he's blithely unaware of being a pawn in their scheming through the film.
    • In the sequel, the minister believes François is a spy and wants to see him. Toulouse has no choice but having François pretend to be a super spy.
  • Unluckily Lucky: François is a magnet for mishaps but always emerges triumphantly from them.
  • Work Info Title: A title that describes the main character.

    The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe 

  • Ambiguously Gay: Toulouse's sexual orientation is not explicitly mentioned in the film, but his flat is full of nude statues of men. From his balcony, he also looks at a group of male joggers with great interest, especially when a muscular jogger removes his shirt.
  • Binocular Shot: François is being observed through binoculars while rowing a boat.
  • Blast Out: Francois' pal Maurice, a practical joker, hands out a couple of exploding cigars — one of which, late in the picture, goes off in an ashtray during a tense Mexican Standoff between four men, all of whom promptly shoot each other except Poucet.
  • Bloodless Carnage: To be expected in a lighthearted spy comedy.
  • Bluff the Eavesdropper: Intelligence officer Toulouse sets the story in motion by telling his lieutenant that a 'super agent' is arriving to blow the lid off his in-house rival's operations, knowing his rival is listening in and will expose his operatives by going after the decoy Toulouse sets up.
  • Body in a Breadbox: Maurice finds one of the dead agents stuffed into François's fridge.
  • Bookends: In the beginning, François arrives from Munich at the airport. In the end, he goes to the airport. Someone asks him if he is going to Munich and he answers that he goes to Rio.
  • The Cameo: Gérard Majax, a famous stage magician, plays the role of one of the spies who search François's flat. He's also doing the credits, with cards.
  • Camera Sniper: At the airport several pies secretly take François' picture. He'd popped a large piece of chewy candy in his mouth, and every shutter click/freeze frame catches him in a goofy facial contortion as it gets stuck in his teeth.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Explosive Cigar Francois is given by Maurice plays a pivotal part in the climax when it goes off and causes the rivaling agents to kill each other.
  • Cultural Translation: The film was remade in the US as The Man with One Red Shoe, with the humorous violence made more sadistic, the sexual content turned quite prudish, and the characters more finely defined as heroes and villains. It bombed.
  • Emerging from the Shadows: Toulouse emerges from the shadows at the opera. Repeated in the same place by the agents in the climax of the sequel.
  • Explosive Cigar: Francois' pal Maurice, a practical joker, hands out a couple of exploding cigars — one of which, late in the picture, goes off in an ashtray during a tense Mexican Standoff between four men, all of whom promptly shoot each other.
  • Feng Schwing: Christine has one of these places, where she invites Francois. As her superiors watch on closed-circuit tv, she goes to change, and he kicks back on the couch with a cigarette, which he promptly drops underneath him - as he flails around manically to retrieve it he hits a switch which opens the couch into a big comfy bed. His watchers admire his smooth technique.
  • The Fool: Francois is an innocuous concert violinist who, unknown to him, is identified as a spy as part of an intelligence agency rivalry. He walks through the film oblivious to the machinations of the agents keeping tabs on him and remains unscathed as they do each other in.
  • Gambit Pileup: Different parties of Government agents messing with each other's agenda.
  • Gaslighting: Maurice is subjected to this - utterly unintentionally. All the time he gets to glimpse behind the masquerade but a moment later the evidence is gone, which makes him question his sanity.
  • Go Out with a Smile: Government intelligence high-up Bernard Milan gets shot along with a bunch of operatives - when he finds out the title character everyone was shooting each other over was just a decoy set up by his long-time agency rival, he manages to laugh about it as he's dying.
  • Honey Trap: Christine is engaged to seduce François.
  • Incessant Music Madness: François presenting his own composition to Christine and the agents listening in. Christine has to shout for him to stop.
  • Inspector Oblivious: François has no clue what he is up against but he foils the evil plan nonetheless.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: Bernard claims to have never seen the smuggler from the opening scene but is immediately proven wrong when a photo is presented of them partying together.
  • Iris Out: The movie ends with an Iris Out on François as he walks off into the distance at the airport.
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: Maurice finds the dead bodies of the agents in his flat and runs out. When he wants to show the evidence to François, all the bodies are gone.
  • Lie Detector: The opening scene shows a heroin smuggler plugged to a lie detector.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Maurice is only seen wearing his blue jumpsuit.
  • Mexican Standoff: When factions from both sides converge on his apartment, they all draw guns — as they face off, they agree that as professionals, they won't shoot each other... then a trick cigar (given to the pawn by his friend) smoldering in an ashtray blows up, and all four men shoot at each other. Subverted because one of François's bodyguards survive.
  • Person with the Clothing: The movie title is an example.
  • Pistol-Whipping: Maurice goes out after getting pistol-whipped by Bernard.
  • Ransacked Room: A team of government agents sneak through François' apartment while he's out, photographing all his personal effects and planting bugs.
  • Ready for Lovemaking: Christine when François visits her. Her clothing and attitude make it quite clear that she wants to have sex with him. Nevertheless, François is hesitating and does not seem to understand, so she finally has to ask him explicitly.
  • Sex–Face Turn: Happens to Christine after bedding François.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: Femme Fatale spy Christine meets her intended conquest at her door in a black dress that conceals everything from her neck to her wrists to her feet. Then she turns around, and her back is completely bare, down to butt-cleavage.
  • Shoutout: The names of François's bodyguards, Poucet and Chaperon, are references to Hop-o'-My-Thumb (Le Petit Poucet in French) and Little Red Riding Hood (Le Petit Chaperon rouge).
  • Slip into Something More Comfortable: Christine switches into a very transparent nighty when François comes to visit.
  • Spies In a Van: A team of agents bug François' apartment and listen in from a van made up to look like a florist's. They record a sexual tryst he's rather unwillingly having with his best friend's wife. Later, they're playing it back as the friend is just outside on a bicycle - he concludes his wife is having an affair with a florist.
  • Spotting the Thread: Inverted and Played with. François is a pawn chosen because a detail (his shoes) singles him out of a crowd and looks like a thread waiting to be pulled. Then, Toulouse counts on Milan to put that random guy's life under scrutiny to find any semblance of evidence that it's a cover for some super-agent.
  • Spy Cam: Several of these are in use to capture the hero when he arrives at the airport, hidden in places like firelighters and cigarette packs.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Applies to Maurice and Paulette.

    The Return of the Tall Blond Man 
  • Assassin Outclassin': François manages to foil all the attacks on his life by the assassins in Brazil, if only by sheer luck. For the last attempt, the assassins are told to spare his life so they move his car with a bomb inside out of the way.
  • Binocular Shot: Maurice and Paulette are observed via binoculars at the opera in the opening scene.
  • Blood from the Mouth: The fat Chinese gangster dying in the shootout has blood running from his mouth. It's all fake though to make François look like a badass spy.
  • Bring It: François make this hand motion when showing off his martial art moves in the street with the police officer.
  • Camera Sniper: A viewfinder follows François as he dances around in his apartment in Rio. The sniper shoots but misses him continuously.
  • Coincidental Dodge: A sniper tries to shoot François in his apartment in Rio, but the attempt fails because François dances and bows down to spit out his drink.
  • Counting to Three: François demands for the agents to let him out of Maurice apartment by the count of three. When they don't move on three, François continues counting to four but then loses his temper and lashes out at them.
  • External Combustion: A hitman sets up François' car to explode shortly after ignition but then gets told to spare François' life, so he instead moves the car away from François while he's not looking so it can explode safely.
  • Groin Attack: François applies this technique in his combat with the unwitting policeman.
  • Gun Twirling: François shows off with this trick as part of his deep spy cover.
  • Handbag of Hurt: The wife of the policeman that François beats up in the street goes after him with her purse.
  • Iris Out: The final scene.
  • Musical Pastiche: When François arrives in France disguised as a spy, there's a pastiche of John Barry's James Bond music (including a snippet sounding like Goldfinger's "Bond Back in Action Again"). Then François goofs up when taking his (too tight) shoe off and leaving it on the airport's moving walkway's handrail, and the "Tall Blond Man" theme plays again.
  • Queer People Are Funny: The gay priest.
  • Revenge of the Sequel: The sequel has The Return in the title.
  • "Risky Business" Dance: François performs one in his apartment at Rio, making it impossible for the sniper to hit him.
  • Shoe Phone: François gets equipped with firelighters that act as walkie-talkies and switchblades.
  • Sound-Only Death: Toulouse's alleged suicide in the finale happens behind a closed door.
  • These Hands Have Killed: The ploy to humble Cambrai. Toulouse sets him up to shoot a man on impulse which makes Cambrai feel deeply guilty. Too bad he later finds out that the bullets in his gun were blanks.
  • Woman Scorned: Christine assassinates François at the opera for cheating on her with Paulette. It's all staged though to fool Toulouse.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Toulouse plans to kill François after he has served his purpose. However, things turn out differently when François confuses left with right.
  • Your Other Left: François is ultimately saved by his poor sense of direction when he strays from his intended route and avoids an encounter with Toulouse's killers.

Alternative Title(s): The Return Of The Tall Blond Man