Le Grand Amour (1968, Pierre Etaix)

Another sheer delight from Etaix, who is now officially one of my favorite comedians. Pierre feels smothered by his marriage to Florence (Annie Fratellini, a former circus clown who married Etaix the year this came out), working at his in-laws’ company, living in their house, decides to have an affair with his secretary (Nicole Calfan, a sexy maid in The Three Musketeers), pushed by his pro-cheating friend Jacques. Etaix is so even-tempered that despite the movie’s flights of fancy, he seems less driven to the affair out of desperation or uncontrollably lusting after the secretary than coolly determining that this is the proper course of action and plotting how it should happen.

Fascinating that Etaix shared a co-screenwriter with Bunuel. This is his most Bunuelian movie yet – also his first film in color, shot by Jean Boffety (Thieves Like Us, Je t’aime, je t’aime).

V. Rizov:

The big dream sequence — Étaix in a bed cruising along country roads like a car, past many others, past comic vignettes of chastely-pajama’d bedroom conflicts — stops when he spies secretary Agnès (Nicole Calfan, such stunning, undeniable 20something bait in her nightgown that rare, audible jaws dropping and whistles were heard at the Film Forum). She later subjectively views him, during an awkwardly-arranged dinner, as an old man with long whiskers droning on about business, a startling POV shift all the more impactful for being a one-off. My admiration’s held back by an ending that doesn’t seem nearly despairing enough, but that may be a personal problem.

D. Ehrlich: “It’s no Yoyo, but what a tragic standard against which to hold other films.”

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