Sadly, The Price of Fame is the kind of departure that has him heading off in entirely the wrong direction with his suitcase on the roof of his car. Although there are scenes ripe for slapstick bungling, there is none of the surprise or grace of slapstick. Two men digging up and stealing a coffin could have been funny, but there's just nothing here. The acting of the two leads is fine, but when Eddy gets the job of a clown having shown no aptitude and having no inclination for the job, one gets the feeling that Beauvois and his screenwriter Etienne Comar must think that either clowning is a doddle or that Poelvoorde's performance thus far must have convinced the audience he's a natural clown. It isn't and he didn't. With this insouciance, it's no wonder that the funniest moment in the film comes when a clip of Chaplin is shown in a news report.
Add to this the cloying sentimentality that must persuade us to like Osman because he has a cute daughter and a sick wife, as well as a bizarre cameo by Peter Coyote as Chaplin's butler Crooker, who becomes an unconvincing villain. The whole affair feels tasteless and wrong. The comedy isn't funny, the drama hardly dramatic. The obvious talents of the actors and the director are wasted. Michel Legrand's soundtrack explodes with a bombastic melodramatic score that has very little to do with what is happening on the screen and feels like a belated effort to lift The Price of Fame into the semi-decency of pastiche. When Chaplin's body was recovered it was returned to Corsier cemetery and concrete was poured over it to deter any further disturbance. If you go there today, you might just be able to make out the noise of him spinning.
The 71st Venice Film Festival takes place from 27 August to 6 September 2014. For more coverage, follow this link.