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Say Cheese: A Taste of Swiss Humor in “Bonjour Switzerland”

Posted by May 14th, 2024 No Comments »

Bonjour Switzerland (2023)
Directed by Peter Luisi
Starring Beat Schlatter, Vincent Kucholl, Catherine Pagani, and Silvia Jost

As viewed at the 50th Annual Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF)

I love a good dad joke. They make me chuckle. And who doesn’t like a good chuckle? Peter Luisi’s SIFF submission, Bonjour Switzerland, feels like a feature-length dad joke. The only problem is what gets lost in the sauce of translation.

When a referendum forces Switzerland to change from a nation with four distinct cultural regions into a monolingual mash-up, a German-speaking police officer gets embroiled in the fallout.

This film is a light-hearted take on what would ultimately be catastrophic. And light-hearted comedies get a bad rap. They don’t have raunchy jokes. They don’t push taboos. Their tone isn’t edgy. And comedies of this kind can be a bit cheesy. But hey! If we’re using Gruyère, let’s do some fondue! Am I right?

And that’s kinda the vibe of this film. The pacing is quick—which is nice—the premise is clever, and the plot takes us on a cute little adventure through some alpine political intrigue.

But was I missing a lot of the film’s humor? In the third act, for instance, two characters go undercover as a train conductor and a priest. I imagine this juxtaposition is charming for European audiences. But who in America rides a train? Not many. It’s the way most Europeans commute, which makes dealing with a conductor a daily occurrence. Seeing priests wearing habits in public is common too, especially in European villages. But in America, not so much. I’m only speaking for myself, but a lot of the comedy feels regional. This makes me assume American audiences might not catch on to the film’s subtleties. I probably didn’t, but I guess I don’t really know.

Switzerland is undoubtedly unique. Banks, pocket knives, neutrality, and Davos. I know there’s more, and I would love to visit one day. Having watched several YouTube travel guides, Switzerland looks edenic. Bonjour Switzerland gave me a little taste of that Swiss allure, and the story did make me chuckle. I would recommend this film to anyone who knows Switzerland, wants to know Switzerland, and enjoys a good dad joke. Which reminds me: What kind of cheese does the Pope like? Swiss cheese—it’s so holey.

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