Synopsis by Robert Firsching
The genuine love felt by the people of France for American comedian Jerry Lewis has become something of a topic for incredulous humor in the United States over the years, but if there was any doubt as to whether the many jokes overstated the case, this exhaustive six-hour hagiography from director Robert Benayoun quickly erases it. Nothing less than an adoring outpouring of idolatry, Bonjour Monsieur Lewis is simultaneously affectionate and reverential toward its subject, presenting hundreds of rare clips, outtakes, interviews, and tributes from Lewis' estimated six million feet of tape and film housed in his obsessively complete basement library, a collection of nearly everything he has ever done. In between highlights of his film career, there are talks with Martin Scorsese (who directed Lewis in 1982's The King of Comedy), Steven Spielberg, John Landis, Mel Brooks, and Louis Malle, among others. There are also a number of rare films of Lewis on-stage at French venues, singing "Sonny Boy" with his own father and son, reuniting with Dean Martin at a Muscular Dystrophy telethon, and engaging in some raunchy ad libs cut from his early films. The film clips are varied and fairly thorough, even excerpting Lewis' rare TV version of The Jazz Singer, but, alas, virtually ignoring the Holy Grail among Lewis completists, his aborted concentration-camp project The Day the Clown Cried. Other segments deal with his highly praised charitable efforts and relationship with children. More of a tribute than a real documentary, the film is nevertheless a treasure trove for anyone remotely interested in this talented and enigmatic comedy legend.