Étaix - 2013 05 31 - Le Grand Amour

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LE GRAND AMOUR
French 1969
Dir. Pierre Étaix
Running Time: 87m
35mm

LE GRAND AMOUR is Pierre Étaix’ final piece of theatrical fiction and first color film. It marks a slight departure for the droll director, whose work had come to be characterized by its silent film comedy affect and technique. Here, dialogue is used much less sparingly than in his previous work, for which ‘soundies’ (think ‘talkies’) might’ve been a more precise term. What holds constant is Étaix’ inventive flair for slapstick, impeccable sense of timing and poetic approach to satire.

LE GRAND AMOUR is notable for assiduously summarizing many of Étaix’ usual comic themes. Here we have a freewheeling montage that skips in time and from reality to imagination, prefiguring the comedic outlook of Woody Allen in ANNIE HALL (1977). Much of the film’s humor is rooted in plays on filmic construction: by goofing on metaphor, sound and perspective. Co-starring is his real-life spouse, Annie Fratellini, who played Mado in ZAZIE DANS LE METRO (Malle 1961).

Preceding the film is Étaix’ second short film, HAPPY ANNIVERSARY (1962). It was co-directed by his longtime collaborator Jean-Claude Carrière and won the 1963 Oscar for Best Live Action Short Subject. Georges Loriot, the French clown, makes his first of many appearances in Étaix’ work. Étaix spent much of his young life in the circus and would return in his later years to found the first National Circus School in France.

KURTISS HARE
31 May 2013