The Great Love (2012)
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Critic Reviews for The Great Love
A movie that wittily points to and sometimes upends its narrative.
It may be a stretch to call the filmmaker a forgotten genius, but if nothing else, Le Grand Amour makes a case that Étaix was a fertile clown, overdue for a bow in the spotlight.
Along the way, Étaix satirizes the marmoreal chill of the bourgeoisie, the small-town gossip mill, and, above all, the absurd yet agonized, blundering yet callous delusions of desire.
Director and co-writer Etaix does a fine, funny job in his commentary on modern marriage (at least, marriage in late 1960s France) and infidelity and the damaging power of gossip.
Audience Reviews for The Great Love
Co-writer/director Pierre Etaix plays a young man who marries for convenience and settles into a comfortable rut working for his father-in-law's tannery. Ten years of routine have led him to pine away for his pretty young secretary, but the film's narrative is refreshingly reluctant to allow his aging male ego to rationalize its fragility. The Great Love is Etaix' first color film, but it still relies heavily on the sight gags, sound effects, and physical humor that its director borrows liberally from the silent era. Its most memorable scene is probably a dream sequence where Etaix and his intended paramour are whisked along the countryside by a roving bed; that part is an apt symbol of this film's tone, theme, and sense of acerbic whimsy.
The attempt to cast French actor/writer/director Pierre Etaix as an unsung master of physical comedy is not misguided -- he really does have some marvelous gags, choreographed with beautifully paced precision. However, in "Le Grand Amour," his efforts are wasted on a tired, sexist premise. Etaix plays a successful businessman who has been married for 10 years to an average woman who lacks dazzle. And his mother-in-law is much worse. When his new secretary turns out to be a 18-year-old beauty, he falls in love at first sight and immediately considers leaving his wife for her. Does he have any chemistry with the girl? No. Do her own feelings matter? No. She's his for the asking. Apparently. If you can get past the story's oh-so-French chauvinism, there are some delightful laughs and at least two brilliant set pieces: one, a fantasy in which Etaix imagines driving his bed around the countryside with the girl by his side and, two, a bitter sequence in which he uses a room of items cut in half (even a piano) to show his wife what would happen if she left him and demanded half of his assets.
Good french comedy which relies on the absurdity of a situation instead of pratfalls or quick banter. Watch for the use of color to accent the actors and props. This Etaix's first foray into color, made after he had taken a 3 year hiatus to return to his earlier work as a clown. He cast several of his clown friends in this pic - including his soon to be wife, Annie Fratellini. Etaix's films have only recently been made available in the West after disagreements about distribution rights. This film was nominated for the Palme d'Or.
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