Review: 'Cartouche' is a Gloriously Lavish Yet Thought-Provoking Action-Adventure

by Frank J. Avella

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday June 9, 2021

Review: 'Cartouche' is a Gloriously Lavish Yet Thought-Provoking Action-Adventure

In 1960, Jean-Luc Godard's seminal film "Breathless" made Jean-Paul Belmondo an international sensation. The New York Times reported at the time that Belmondo had "more acting assignments than he could handle." The hot new star did his best, though, and one of those many projects was the Philippe de Broca's Robin Hood-meets-Three Musketeers extravaganza "Cartouche," which was a huge hit with French audiences.

Based on the true adventures of the notorious and charismatic 18th century thief Louis-Dominique Bourguignon, alias Cartouche (the dashing Belmondo), the film blends swashbuckling adventure with fleeting romance and comedic antics that add up to a highly entertaining motion picture, but also a surprising exploration of human nature and class.

The movie takes a while to rev up, but stay with it because as soon as Dominique crowns himself Cartouche and dethrones the evil Malichot (Marcel Dalio), the film races into high, larcenous gear as he and his merry band steal from the aristocracy and give to... themselves... the poor.

A young Claudia Cardinale plays Vénus with great energy and wit. But it's Belmondo who the camera has the greatest love affair with. The charismatic and sexy actor commands the screen.

"Cartouche" would mark the first of many pairings between director and co-writer Philippe de Broca and Belmondo ("That Man from Rio," "Le Magnifique aka: The Man from Acapulco," "Incorrigible").

The film can be strangely philosophical, meditating on greed, fear, and even personal fulfillment while satirizing both the upper and lower classes.

The 4k restoration Kino Special Edition Blu-ray looks fantastic, and the sound is first rate.

Extras include the theatrical trailer, an informative audio commentary by Film Critic and Author Simon Abrams, and a doc titled "Adventure with a Capital 'C' " that locates the film in its historical place and discusses how it lands somewhere between the French Nouvelle Vague and popular cinema.

For a gloriously lavish, yet thought-provoking, action-adventure film from almost 60 years ago, "Cartouche" will not disappoint. And to see Belmondo in his prime makes it a double treat.

Blu-ray Extras Include:

  • 4K Restoration from the Original Camera Negative
  • NEW Audio Commentary by Film Critic and Author Simon Abrams
  • Adventure with a Capital "C" - Documentary with Alexandra de Broca & Journalist Thomas Morales
  • Theatrical Trailer

    "Cartouche" is currently available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

    Frank J. Avella is a film and theatre journalist and is thrilled to be writing for EDGE. He also contributes to Awards Daily and is the GALECA East Coast Rep. Frank is a recipient of a 2019 International Writers Retreat Residency at Arte Studio Ginestrelle (Assisi, Italy), a 2018 Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship, a 2016 Helene Wurlitzer Residency Grant and a 2015 NJ State Arts Council Fellowship Award. He is an award-winning screenwriter and playwright (CONSENT, LURED, SCREW THE COW, FIG JAM, VATICAN FALLS) and a proud member of the Dramatists Guild.