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I May Destroy You
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Uneven Pierre Etaix comedy in four acts; the third and fourth are the funniest, relying on visual sight gags and slapstick.
Skimpy at just 68 minutes, "Tant Qu'on a la Sante" (commonly translated as "As Long as You're Healthy" or "As Long as You've Got Your Health") is another treat from the late Pierre Etaix, France's criminally underrated comedy genius. The film is divided into four separate stories of similar lengths. The first ("Insomnia") is the most stylized, with sleepless Etaix nervously reading a vampire novel in bed. As he reads, he twitches, sweats and imagines the story's action, depicted with a bluish tint. Meanwhile, various peripheral activities in his room (particularly the stirrings of his wife) stoke his fears. While the filmmaking is impressive (Etaix easily could have made a straight horror flick), the central concept -- a mere book practically paralyzing someone with terror -- is so over the top that the results are a bit of an eye roll. The second segment, "The Movies," is the funniest of the four, featuring gags about the quirks of a theater audience and still-timely humor about oppressive advertising and product placement. (A fake commercial about a multi-purpose "Omni Oil" that's part medicine, car treatment, hair tonic and salad dressing may have influenced a classic "Saturday Night Live" bit years later.) The titular third segment visits the chaos of metropolitan life, as people try to stay smiling through paralyzing traffic and crowded restaurants, while ubiquitous jack hammers rattle the neighborhood's home furnishings. Finally comes the less essential "Into the Woods No More." Moving to the farmlands, this sequence follows a clumsy hunter, a couple looking for a picnic spot and a farmer who can't keep his wire fence from repeatedly toppling.
I feel that Pierre Etaix' short films are stronger than his features, so it comes to no surprise that I enjoyed As Long As You've Got Your Health as much as I did. This movie is an anthology that strings together vignettes regarding vampires, rush hour traffic, a crowded movie theater, and a jaunt to a pastoral setting. Each quadrant is amusing, likable, and paced with expert finesse. I'd argue that, while Pierre Etaix is still borrowing heavily from his heroes, As Long As You've Got Your Health is the first film where Mr. Etaix has transcended his influences and found his own artistic voice.
This movie is a collection of four shorts:
Insomnia: A strange short film in which a man cannot sleep because he is reading a Dracula inspired novel. Not very funny, just weird.
The Movies: The best in the bunch in my opinion, its about Pierre trying to get a decent seat in a packed and loony cinema, and then he ends up in a vicious world where everyone is a commercial
As Long As Your Healthy: A nervous wreck doctor prescribes unneeded medicine to his patients, with one hilarious result
Into the Woods No More: Not much happens here, Pierre is a hunter, and there are three other people doing stuff
A few laughs and clever bits submerged in much mediocrity dragged out for too long.