INTERVIEWS

Three men and a bassinet: an unexpected success for a comedy that has become cult

Roland Giraud, Michel Boujenah and André Dussollier are nursing this Sunday.

This Sunday, the parents will be faced with their responsibilities, on France 2. After Le Petit tenant, with Karin Viard , place at 10:50 pm at Roland Giraud , Michel Boujenah and André Dussollier , the three “celibates” who became dads by force of circumstance while having to take care of the baby of one of them, entrusted “by force” by his overwhelmed mother in Three men and a bassinet . The beginning of trouble for these three males more used to thinking of themselves than to pampering cherubs.

35 years after its release, Trois hommes et un couffin is still well anchored in our memories: its colossal success has hardly been matched since. With 10.2 million admissions, it is still today in the top 10 of the biggest successes in the history of French cinema. An exceptional and unexpected performance that helped make this film the event of 1985, and much more. Having become a social phenomenon, Coline Serreau’s film , quite at ease in its time, has not lost any of its modernity even today.

A modern comedy

However, nothing foreshadowed such a success. Director Colin Serreau was not yet a household name at the time. This child of the ball, daughter of the writer Geneviève Serreau and the director Jean-Marie Serreau , already has four feature films to her credit, some of which have been noticed like Pourquoi pas! in 1977, but none of which touched the public success of Trois hommes et un couffin . For her fifth film, of which she is also the screenwriter, she surrounds herself with a cast of popular actors led by the trio formed by Roland Giraud , Michel Boujenah and André Dussollier. But what will make the success of the film above all lies in the finesse of its script, in line with the evolution of society’s mores. Its new tone, approaching the inversion of “traditional” social roles, single-parent families, stay-at-home fathers, finds a large echo with the public, female or male. It is this word of mouth that will make the film a surprise success beyond all expectations. Dotted with cult scenes and dialogues (the rhyme Au clair de la lune , the face-to-face between Roland Giraud and Dominique Lavanant …) as well as improvised finds on the set (the character of Michel Boujenahduck walk because the actor had to wear diapers due to a misplaced twist contracted on the set of his previous film), Three Men and a Bassinet appeared as a modern comedy and well in its time, which was praised by the criticism at the film’s release.

Result: the success takes on a historic scale by attracting a little more than 10.2 million spectators in theaters. We said above that Trois hommes et un couffin was the 10th biggest French success of all time in France, and it is also the biggest success in French cinemas of the whole of the 1980s, all nationalities combined, ahead of ET, the extra-terrestrial by Steven Spielberg (9.4 million admissions) and Le Grand Bleu by Luc Besson (9.2 million).

The popularity of the film materialized at the César: nominated six times, it emerged as the winner of the evening by winning three trophies: that of the best original screenplay for Coline Serreau, that of the best actor in a supporting role for Michel Boujenah , and especially that of the best film. Nominated for the Oscar for best foreign film, it will finally have to bow to the Argentine film The official story of Luis Puenzo . But the success does not stop there and goes beyond the French borders. The film is indeed an unexpected hit in the Soviet Union, where it attracts more than 33 million people in theaters! Great reception from the public also across the Rhine with more than 2.5 million admissions, the film has a more modest but still appreciable success on the very difficult American market, where it exceeds half a million spectators.

America immediately seizes on its subject and offers barely two years later its own adaptation, Three men and a baby . The Roland Giraud – Michel Boujenah – André Dussollier tandem is replaced by Tom Selleck , Steve Guttenberg and Ted Danson in this film directed by … Leonard Nimoy , the famous Spock from the Star Trek saga . Three men and a baby, in addition to being well received by the critics, in its turn experienced a huge box office becoming the biggest success of the year 1987 on the American territory by obtaining receipts fifteen times higher than its budget: 167 million dollars against 11 official budget. In 1990, Like Fathers , Like Daughter , with the same cast, was commissioned.

For France, it was not until 2003 that a sequel saw the light of day, 18 years later , with Madeleine Besson, the director’s daughter, in the role of the baby who has grown up well. It drew 1.5 million curious viewers in theaters, which is an honorable score, without being impressive. In 2011, Roland Giraud evoked the idea of ​​a third opus, “which would be the birth of the baby of the little one, a good subject to close the story”. So far, this project has not materialized.

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