Tuesday, March 21, 2017

1978 Winner, Get Out Your Handkerchiefs

Get Out Your Handkerchiefs

Directed by:  Bertrand Blier

Distributor:  Compagnie Commerciale Française

Released:  January 1978

Country:  France

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression.  A 2011 WHO study found that French people are the most likely to have a “major depressive episode” sometime in their lives.  Depression is treated with medications like Prozac, Zoloft, Lexapro; psychotherapy and the occasional electro-shock therapy are also standard ways to work through this very pervasive and common disorder.  

In Get Out Your Handkerchiefs, Raoul, played by Gerard Depardieu, introduces us to a new way to handle the problem.  Raoul’s wife, Solange, is so depressed she doesn’t even to seem to care that she is depressed.  We first meet the couple over a salad lunch at a small restaurant.  Raoul expresses to Solange his total love for her and his complete frustration that she will not snap out of her funk.  Raoul sees that across the restaurant, a shaggy looking patron had been checking out his rather attractive wife.  Nothing overt, just a casual glance or two from the man, but now Raoul believes he has a cure for what ails her.  Why not ask this man to have sex with his wife?  That should clear up the cobwebs or whatever is going on in her pretty little head!
Raoul, Stephane, and Solange

The man, Stephane, at first is a little weirded out.  But Solange doesn’t seem to object, and Raoul the husband is the one asking him, and she's kinda hot, so what the hell?  So for the next part of the movie Raoul and his new bestie Stephane take turns (off camera) having sex with Solange to get her to cheer up a little.  Mostly, she sits around the house without a shirt, sometimes knitting to keep busy (though never a top for herself), but still depressed as she ever was.

Besides sharing Solange, Stephane and Raoul share a love of Mozart and talk about what it would be like to meet him.  They also befriend a local grocer and share with him their love of Mozart and their arrangement with Solange.  They try to include her in their discussions and interests, but Solange just isn’t feeling it.  Then Raoul has another bright idea.  Why don’t he and Solange accompany Stephane, a teacher, for a few weeks at the children’s camp he works at?  The three go there and befriend a 13-year-old oddball named Christian.  Christian is much smarter than the rest of the kids and isn’t afraid to show it.  Which generally doesn’t make him popular with the other kids.  Solange, however, takes a shine to him.  And well, without giving too much away, this is where the film devolves from a slightly depraved sitcom of a movie to one that may make you feel like you have to take a shower after viewing.
Christian watching Solange knit in bed

Get Out Your Handkerchiefs is genuinely funny at times, and Depardieu as Raoul and Patrick Dewaere are a good buddy-movie combo (sadly, Dewaere seems to have been the one with real demons, as he took his own life in 1982).  Carole Laure as Solange is cute as a button, even when she isn’t smiling, which is most of the movie (and speaking of buttons, Solange doesn’t have any need for them during much of the movie).  As strange as the, er, threesome are, all of them are likable and fun to watch together.  But I just didn’t buy that even in 1970’s France this kind of stuff would happen.  And because of that, the humor is muted and whatever point being made by director Bertrand Blier is rendered absurd.  However likeable the trio may be, their choices make them nincompoops, however good-intentioned they seem.  I think I came out of this film as depressed as Solange was, except I had my shirt on for the entire movie.

Solange most of the movie.  Call me a prude, but I added the black box.
The Title:  Préparez vos mouchoirs.  They should have called this, “Get Out Your Boobies.”

The Culture:  If France was a swinging, conventions-be-damned kinda place in the 1970’s, then this film reflects it well.  While he wasn’t French, Mozart is discussed at length.

Agenda danger:  I suppose I could be called a prude for seeing the movie as a push to normalize non-standard sexual relationships.  But I was able to buy into the movie’s first half as all-in-good-fun; it was the last act that left me feeling it would have been okay if this film had never been made.

Best Picture that year:  The Deer Hunter

Rating:  I’ll admit liking this movie for most of it for the humor and for the odd friendship between the three main players.  I think at first even Christian and the trio's relation to him was charming.  But when the film was over, I just shook my head over what had just happened and lost any fondness I had for any of them.

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