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The King of Farce

Posted at 7:44 PM on April 16, 2007 by Euan Kerr

French director Francis Veber does comedy, and he does it well. He's the guy that wrote "La Cage aux Folles" (I and II) amongst other things.

His new film "The Valet" will screen at the Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival, and then return for a theatrical run in May. It's a farce about a down-at-luck young man who is caught in the background of a picture of a billionaire industrialist standing beside his supermodel mistress. The industrialist is desperate to avoid a messy divorce and offers the young man a lot of money to pretend he is the supermodels lover.

Veber was in town today to chat with local journalists about "The Valet" and to speak at a special screening with the Alliance Francais in Minneapolis. He is known as the "King of Farce" on France, a writer and a director who knows how to make funny films. As he talks about comedy he keeps referring to maintaining the pace. His pictures clip along with one-liner following one-liner, preferring to use subtlety rather than a sledgehammer.

When asked about the state of modern comedy, particularly in Hollywood, he says there is a problem. He recalls asking a US producer why films aren't as funny as they once were, the producer said in the old days all the writers had learned their craft on Broadway.

"And they knew how to structure a comedy," Veber says. "And now they are all coming from TV. They know how to write punchlines. It's very different you know. This could be one explanation. The other one being that the studios are more and more attracted to younger audiences."

Veber says the attraction of a big first weekend with theaters stuffed with teens makes studios produce comedies which he describes as 'broader and with less precision.'

"The need is to make people laugh, make them laugh by any means, you know. And for this reason, from time to time, it's less fun than it should be."

While the bulk of Weber's films in recent years have been comedies he says he has made serious films from time to time. He says directing a non-comedy film is like taking a vacation however because they are so much easier to do.

Not that he wants to take a vacation. Weber says he loves the whole process, from the moment he sits down at his desk to the moment the film is screened.

"At the end you see your dream on the screen," he says. "I don't know a better job than that."

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