|Index||3 reviews in total|
I haven't seen this since I was a teenager, when I was, as I still am, a huge fan of Etaix, one of the last of the great movie gag men. As far as I can remember, this wasn't quite as funny as Le Soupirant, but very much in the same vein: a series of sketches, visual gags in the style of Buster Keaton. It's a hilarious view of modern life and how one rather meek, humble chap (Etaix) manages to cope in the face of the increasingly odd behaviour of his fellow humans. There are some very wry portraits of bourgeois behaviour in Paris and in the country, and poor Monsieur Etaix does his best to swim with the tide or guess which way the current is going. For many years, after seeing this film, and Le Soupirant, I would sing the praises of Pierre Etaix to anyone who would listen, and I'm doing it again: a warm, human, hilarious film-maker.
In 1966, Pierre Étaix unveiled his third feature film (as usual written
in collaboration with Jean-Claude Carriere) which, however, did not
adhere to its creator's original conception as a portmanteau film but
rather made the same protagonist go through the disparate environments
due to the producer's insistence. Even so, this original version
received the 1966 Silver Mermaid prize at the "Incontro Internazionale
del Cinema di Sorrento, Italy" and won the Silver Seashell at the San
Sebastián International Film Festival. Eventually, 4 years later Étaix
was given the chance to go back to the drawing board and came up with a
four-part film that added a new segment the first, entitled
"Insomnia" and disposed of another called "Feeling Good" that was
much later given a release of its own on DVD in France.
The 1971 Director's Cut (which is the restored version readily available nowadays) opens and closes with theatrical curtains in homage to the early days of Cinema - particularly the films of Georges Méliés - and is divided into four parts, separated by title cards, namely:
"Insomnia": a man (Étaix) who cannot sleep (a condition that is currently afflicting me practically on a daily basis) starts reading a book about vampires all through the night, when his wife finally wakes up and reveals her true nature!; the narrative of the book is re-enacted for the viewer in a terrifically atmospheric tinted sequence that poses Étaix as the chief vampire and Carriere made up as an elderly victim! Among the more inventive touches adopted here have the dream 'responding' to its reader's whim, so that the action appears inverted when he picks up the book upside-down and is repeated when he turns back a page to re-read a particular passage! Interestingly, before starting to work for the Cinema, Carriere penned a series of 6 "Frankenstein" spin-off novels under the pseudonym of Benoit Becker and, for this life-long fan of the genre, it is a pity that he rarely dabbled in this field on film outside of his 2 movies for Jesus Franco: THE DIABOLICAL DR. Z (1965) and ATTACK OF THE ROBOTS (1966). For the record, I had previously acquired this "rarity" by itself which is also available to view in its entirety on "You Tube" and only realized a few days ago that it actually formed part of an episodic feature film!;
"The Cinema": the second and weakest episode basically shows a theater patron (Étaix) constantly unable to find an available seat in a crowded cinema and, when he does, his view is blocked in some way or the ticket holders of that particular seat suddenly materialize to claim it;
"As Long As You're Healthy": the titular episode deals with the modern era's stressful effect on the common man, and especially a psychiatrist who seems to be taking it even harder than his patients! There are plenty of sight gags to be found in this episode, the most memorable being one set in a diner where a pharmacist sitting near Étaix mistakenly devours a plate of food that has been spiked with the latter's medicine which he had laid on his dining table for closer inspection; by the time he gets back to his post at the pharmacy, his sickly pallor makes him look far worse than his customers!;
"We're No Longer In The Woods": the fourth, final and most enjoyable episode has a hunter (Étaix), a bickering couple out on a picnic and a farmer setting a wire fence on his plot of land getting on each other's nerves during a day in the country, The tit-for-tat routines reminiscent of the interplay between Laurel & Hardy and any of their frequent nemeses are often hilarious but never more so than when Étaix ineptly shoots a hanging wire off an electricity pole and this inadvertently comes into contact with the farmer's wire fence and, just as the woman turns up the volume of her portable transistor radio to drown out the sound of the nearby gunfire, the farmer does an impromptu dance perfectly timed to the oncoming musical beat when he gets electrocuted from touching his fence! This vignette is an achingly funny one and the genuine highlight of this lively if minor work from this unjustly undervalued French comedian.
In "As Long as You've Got Your Health", Pierre Étaix brings us a film
in which jokes come one after another after another at such a rapid
pace that it boggles the mind! And, while many of the jokes fall flat,
enough of them give you a little chuckle that it's probably worth your
time. Don't expect a lot of plot here--and in many ways it reminds me
of several Jerry Lewis films--particularly "The Bellboy". Both have
minimal plots and both have rapid-fire jokes--some of which fall very
flat and some of which are very clever. And, like the Lewis films, this
one relies extensively on physical humor. It sure appears as if Étaix
has learned from Lewis--and, of course, Lewis from Jacques Tati. And,
of course, Tati from.....and the list goes on and on!
The film is broken into four segments. They are as follows:
L'insomnie--Pierre Étaix plays a man who cannot sleep and so he sits in bed reading a scary novel about vampires. On the plus side, the visuals were great--quite spooky and exciting to see. On the negative, it just wasn't all that funny and relied on a final punchline...which doesn't work if you anticipate it happening.
Le cinématographe--The setting is a movie theater. At first, the film is about all the crazy little annoyances that can occur at such a place. Later, Étaix falls asleep and dreams that life is like a long series of commercials (much like they did on "The Carol Burnett Show"). The jokes are hit and miss but there are so many, I didn't mind. Kind of fun.
Tant qu'on a la santé--About life's little annoyances. Not funny in the least and pretty flat. Étaix is in this segment the least of the four. My least favorite of the four segments.
Nous n'irons plus au bois--Étaix is out hunting, an old man is TRYING to work and a couple are on a picnic. All three end up annoying each other and there are LOTS of jokes here. Most of the time, Étaix unintentionally instigates many of the problems. This is by far the best and funniest of the four segments and my wife and I particularly liked the duck.
So there you have it--four small films within a film. Some bad, some very good and some in between. It's a real mixed bag, that's for sure.
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