L'avaro (1990)

Run Time - 117 min.  |   Countries - France   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Synopsis by Clarke Fountain

Since Moliere's plays are national classics of France, an air of reverence surrounds them. However, they are for the most part comedies based on older commedia del'arte storylines and acting conventions (which most closely resemble the broad humor of the American vaudeville or the British music halls). Moliere's big innovation was to give the stock characters from these ancient themes an actual script to follow, rather than leaving them to improvise their own lines. His lines were usually much, much wittier. Otherwise, these tales are every bit as farcical (and sometimes slapstick) as anything from The Three Stooges or, for that matter, the classical farces of Plautus. However, when the actors ham it up in their parts too much, eyebrows are raised. This multinational production of Moliere's classic L'Avare, or The Miser is an excellent case in point. The lead role of Arpagone, the miser, is played exhuberantly by Alberto Sordi, who for years has traded (on and off the stage) on his pinched, miserly appearance and his romantic skittishness - somewhat akin to the shtik perfected by Jack Benny in the U.S. These characteristics also fit the role to a "T." In the story, the miserly widower is trying to arrange things for the maximum safety of his funds and to prevent his children from doing something stupid, like marrying poor people. In the meantime, his well-known wealth has made him the target of sinister matrimonial designs by the murderous sister of a powerful cardinal. He decides to find a suitable bride for himself to stave off this unhappy prospect, and at the same time arrange good marriages for his son and daughter (who have other people in mind). A triple wedding will cost little more than a single one, and will save him lots of money. Needless to say, everything goes wrong (and finally goes right) in this romantic farce.