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Philippe de Broca
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Rainer Werner Fassbinder
A reminder of the forgotten art of farce.(possible spoiler)
This modest, lovely comedy boasts most of the elements we expect from farce
a country house setting, suspended from 'reality'; a cast of stereotypes
supporting a hero who becomes increasingly emasculated by sexual complications, involving his wife, his mistress, and a homosexual; the intrusion of unexpected characters, in this case a trio of gangsters; intricate plot twists, involving much running about the house; repeated deferral of sexual gratification; and, after all seems lost, a happy, if weary, ending.
Patrick Dewaere, who would commit suicide two years later, and is most famous for his films with Gerard Depardieu for Bertrand Blier (LES VALSEUSES, PREPAREZ VOS MOUCHOIRS), is wonderfully helpless as the titular hero, Marc, a psychotherapist who holds weekend group sessions for the timid, repressed and dissatisfied in his wife, Colette's country house. During one such session, he receives an hysterical phone call from an ex-lover, Marlene, who ran off five years ago with his best friend Bob. Moments later she appears at the house with Bob in tow - they have bungled a bank robbery, shot a policeman, and are looking for refuge, as they wait for Marlene's new lover, the psychotically violent Jo. Colette sees this as a threat to their marriage, and decides to teach Marc a lesson.
She flirts outrageously with Bob, and Marc's exasperation causes the group treatment to deteriorate, although some of the shier members begin to join together independently. Bob is trying to steal the jeep Marc has lovingly painted in day-glo fantasy figures. Just as he is about to make love to a blackmailing Marlene, Jo arrives, and all the simmering tensions finally burst into the open - Colette sleeps with Bob; Marlene indulges in violent bondage sessions with Jo, and Marc finds himself alone with his gay admirer.
It's so refreshing to see a film that has no pretensions other than to entertain, content to provide the stock mechanics of farce without needing to breath new life into them. There are traumas, and there are a couple of scenes teetering on exploitation, but the structure is such that we're not too worried. When we see that the sinister gangsters could have strayed from a 1930s Warners spoof, we relax. The film is set in a country house, and the characters are all types, but any allegorical resonances are muted. The pretty, sunny photography stays on the right side of lelouchisms.
PSY is based on a comic book, and the opening sequence of the paintings on Marc's jeep set the tone of fantasy in a realistic context. The thing about fantasy is that it can be most pertinent when it seems furthest away from 'relevance'. While the gentle satire at the use of alternative healing etc won't hurt anyone, the pinpointing of where les evenements of 1968 have come to pass are pointed, where the film's fantasy becomes a figure for how far France has retreated from such idealism. The closing 'escape', comically ironised, is as compromised as it is happy.
Tied into this is the figure of the revolutionary figure who has sold out to middle-class pleasures - Marc is so undermined in this film, squeezed out of all rooms in the famous bedroom sequence, forced out of his own home, which isn't even his, that we remember the house (e.g. Poe) is often a metaphor for the mind, and as a 'psy', Marc isn't very good (the stolen car, an obvious phallic symbol, confirms this).
The climactic scene, when the clients take over the house, indifferent to the owners, has a mild echo of Bunuel, but mostly the film is pure farce, with plenty of nudity, but more coitus interruptus. Because farce, for all its intimations of sexual liberation, is always curiously chaste.
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