Abel Ginoux Richard Bohringer Passe Partout Karl Makinen Zipolino Riccardo Cucciolla Flaherty Peter McEnery Camille Cecile Blois Georgette Andrea Ferreol Josephine Helene Vincent
With: Alexandra Vandernoot, Patrick Fierry, Jacques Bonnot.
An old-fashioned tale of flying fists, honor and the purity of nature vs. the corruption and compromise of the industrial age, “The Boxing Promoter” has heart and admirable period atmosphere. Set in France just after the turn of the century, pic blends such seemingly unrelated elements as the Cinematographe and pro boxing as a lumberjack is plucked from the woods to be a pugilist. However, the handsomely appointed pic is at logger-heads with current commercial trends, making quality TV its most likely destination after a few short rounds in Euro theaters.
Boxing promoter Abel Ginoux (Richard Bohringer) and his sidekick, a stinky Italian doctor named Zipolino (Riccardo Cucciolla), lose their primary breadwinner — a burly and undefeated boxer — when an illiterate young lumberjack decks him in a fair fight in the forest. After the boxer dies from his injuries, Ginoux convinces the woodsman, known as Passe Partout, to sign on for riches and glory on the itinerant boxing circuit.
In town, Passe Partout discovers electricity, the Cinematographe and women. He falls for the lovely young Camille (Cecile Blois), who, with her widowed mother (Andrea Ferreol), shows silent pics in cafes. Camille’s late dad figured if every boxing match were filmed, fights couldn’t be fixed.
Although Passe Partout believes that the trees will punish a man who cheats, he allows a boxing consortium to convince him to throw a fight — only to renege in the ring.
U.S-born Karl Makinen — who resembles Randy Quaid circa “The Last Detail” — convinces as the lumberjack propelled into a realm more slippery and deceitful than the one he knows. Bohringer’s craggy looks and raspy voice are well-suited to the title role. Peter McEnery is fine as a French-speaking Englishman calling the shots in pro circles and Helene Vincent is appropriately flighty as the well-to-do society matron who becomes Passe Partout’s patron.
Lensing, awash in Earth tones, ambers and grays, incorporates changes of seasons as smoothly as script includes details such as the introduction of Queensbury rules and the use of punching bags for training. Ace American sound designer Richard Shorr and Gallic composer Alexandre Desplat underscore co-scripter-helmer Dominique Ladoge’s straight-forward storytelling.