Call it a dark farce, human comedy or wartime satire. But however you slice it, the ill-conceived morality tale "A Farewell to Fools" is a bust.
Set in the waning days of World War II, the movie involves a group of Romanian villagers attempting to trick the resident fool, Ipu (Gérard Depardieu in hyper-slob mode), into giving up his life in order to save theirs. Unfortunately, the script by Anusavan Salamanian, based on the novel by Titus Popovici (first filmed as 1972's "Then I Sentenced Them All to Death"), highlights so much base intention and wrong-minded impulse, no amount of the madcap humor or forced emotion here can save it.
The contrived plot kicks off when a German soldier is found mysteriously murdered in a small Transylvanian burg. Nazi occupiers then threaten to execute the town's 10 leading citizens — including a priest (a miscast Harvey Keitel), a notary, a doctor and the mayor — if the killer is not revealed the next day.
With no time for detective work, the marked locals promise the French-born Ipu, a damaged World War I veteran, the funeral to end all funerals (which they painfully plan and dress-rehearse in an endless chunk of this brief film's running time) if he'll admit to the murder, never mind that he's innocent.
Even Ipu's loyal young friend Alex (Bogdan Iancu), who discovered the dead soldier to begin with, can't stop the dastardly plan.
That the slow-witted Ipu proves wiser than the townsfolk realize (odd, since he's lived among them for 30 years) offers a nice twist. But the action culminates in such cop-out fashion that it undercuts the movie's intended messaging. Sluggish pacing by director Bogdan Dreyer doesn't help.
"A Farewell to Fools." MPAA rating: PG-13 for a violent image and brief strong language. Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes. At the Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.