Sunday, January 1, 2017

Le grand amour

I mentioned last night that I hadn't realized Pierre Étaix's movies were availableon DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection. That's probably also how one wound up on TCM as part of the salute to slapstick. I had recorded that movie, Le grand amour, and finally got around to watching it this weekend. It's worth a watch.

Étaix plays Pierre a man living in Tours now married to Florence (Étaix's then real-life wife Annie Frattelini). Florence's father owns a tannery and Florence seems to be an only child, so Pierre is groomed to take over the family business. It's there that he meets Agnès (Nicole Calfan). She's the new secretary, and she's a pretty young thing. Pretty enough that Pierre naturally falls in love with her, this being a French movie and the French having that stereotype about ménages a trois and all that. Pierre is worried about his feelings and how to handle them, while at the same time there are some gossipy old women talking about Pierre's actions, blowing them out of all proportion. Can Pierre, Florence, and Agnès all live happily ever after?

The plot of Le grand amour is something that I found to be not much to write home about. It's a fairly pedestrian plot of the sort that we've seen in comedies, dramas, and noirs. What makes Le grand amour stand out above its plot is Étaix's use of visuals to drive the comedy. While I preferred Yoyo, there's still a lot here to enjoy. One scene, for example, has Pierre looking back to the day he first met Florence. He can't recall whether he met her on the terrace of the café, or inside, and every time he changes his memory, the scene switches from being on the terrace to inside. Funny enough, but to top it off after several switches, the waiter turns to Pierre and says, "Will you make up your mind?" I also mentioned those gossipy old women, and the scene of how they blow things out of proportion is a fun one. There are also a lot of point-of-view shots. But the one I think most people will remember is a dream sequence that has Pierre in his bed, as though beds are taking the place of cars in road traffic. It's a pretty original sequence.

Le grand amour isn't a bad movie, and looking at the price of the Criterion box set, it's not as outrageous as you might expect from them, especially when you consider the generally lower interest in the US for foreign films.

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