Pierre Etaix Criterion Collection Blu-ray
Inspired by the masters of silent cinema and the physical comedy of vaudeville, the French director/professional clown was responsible for a charming string of slapstick movies throughout the 1960s. Unfortunately, due to legal conflicts, his body of work has remained largely unseen for many years.
With this collection, Criterion presents the brunt of Etaix's filmography, including five features, 'The Suitor,' 'Yoyo,' 'As Long as You've Got Your Health,' 'Le grand amour,' and 'Land of Milk and Honey,' and three shorts, 'Rupture,' 'Happy Anniversary,' and 'Feeling Good.' An exuberant feast of deadpan absurdity and endearing wit, these movies reveal a marvelous artistic talent marked by a unique brand of refined goofiness that masks an intricate cinematic design beneath blissful narrative simplicity.

2 x BD50 | 1080p AVC | 44.9 Gb + 43.9 Gb + 3% rec
Language: French
Subtitles: English
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Action, Family, Romance, Short, Documentary


DISC 1:

Etaix's initial foray into cinema comes in the form of his 1961 short film, 'Rupture'. Marking the first of many collaborations with celebrated screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere (who also shares co-directing credit here), the story focuses on the deceptively simple tale of a man (Pierre Etaix) who attempts to respond to a Dear John letter he has received from his girlfriend. What follows is a carefully orchestrated descent into slapstick farce where everything that possibly can go wrong does. Exaggerated mishaps with his pen lead to further complications with his desk and just about every other object in the room, creating a humorously hostile world that almost seems to have a personal vendetta against our lovably hopeless hero -- a concept that will go on to define much of the director's work.

In his follow-up, the Academy Award winning 'Happy Anniversary,' Etaix expands his style to a slightly more ambitious scope. The plot chronicles a husband (Pierre Etaix) who frantically tries to complete a series of errands for his anniversary, while his wife (Laurence Lignieres) waits for him at home with a romantic meal already prepared. Of course, these errands turn out to be increasingly difficult to complete as Etaix's unlucky alter ego runs into repeated exaggerated complications mostly dealing with impossible parking and traffic. More clever visual gags, vaudeville acrobatics, and concentrated physical comedy mayhem abound.

A charming, deadpan exercise in understated buffoonery, 'The Suitor' is the director's first feature length effort, and quite possibly his most enjoyable. We follow Pierre (Pierre Etaix), a shy, socially awkward bachelor whose parents pressure him into finding a wife. Sadly, wooing women is not Pierre's strong point, and his earnest efforts are repeatedly dashed by disastrous and often hilarious results. The situation grows further complicated when the unfortunate suitor becomes obsessed with a glamorous singer (France Arnel). Now madly in love, he'll stop at nothing to win her heart.

Taking its cue from the works of Federico Fellini and Pierre Etaix's own experiences in the circus, the director's sophomore feature, 'Yoyo,' chronicles the life of a millionaire turned clown, and later his son, a famous clown who eventually becomes a millionaire (both played by the filmmaker). A bittersweet, cyclical examination of happiness and dreams, the film examines the pitfalls of wealth with all of Etaix's trademark wit and heartfelt affection.

DISC 2:

While all of Etaix's films rely on episodic structures, the director takes this concept to a much more literal level in his third picture, an anthology feature titled 'As Long as You've Got Your Health.' A collection of four shorts starring Etaix, the movie offers more slapstick humor and creative wit, furthering many of the same themes and sensibilities defined by the comedian's previous work. The first vignette focuses on a man reading a vampire story in bed, periodically shifting to the world within the book as he imagines the plot play out. The second short deals with a humorous trip to a crowded movie theater and also features a satirical jab at commercials and consumerism. In the third segment, construction and traffic cause one man so much stress that he is prescribed medication, leading to a comical mishap at a restaurant. In the final chapter, a couple's trip to the woods for a picnic is complicated by an inept hunter.

The last short, titled 'Feeling Good,' was originally one of the vignettes included in the director's anthology feature 'As Long as You've Got Your Health,' but was later replaced with another short when Etaix was given the opportunity to re-work and re-release that film. In this comical misadventure, a man (Pierre Etaix) attempts to enjoy a camping trip out in the peaceful wilderness -- but, as one might expect, he runs into a few issues, leading to a series of silly accidents. Eventually the man is forced into a satirically larger-than-life camping ground (fenced off like a prison) where he meets more bizarre characters and attempts to escape.

In 'Le grand amour' the director places his emphasis on a married man, Pierre (Pierre Etaix), who becomes infatuated with his new beautiful assistant (Nicole Calfan). Bored with the dull complacency of domesticity and reinvigorated by his newfound passion, Pierre becomes torn between his loyalty to his wife (Annie Fratellini, Etaix' real life spouse) and his burgeoning obsession with his young subordinate. As he continues to fantasize about having a love affair, he tries to summon up the strength to either give up his dreams of infidelity or finally act out upon them.

Eschewing the scripted narratives of his previous work, Etaix's final film, 'Land of Milk and Honey,' is actually an experimental satirical documentary -- one that proved to be a little controversial when first released. In fact, its negative reception was a key factor in prematurely ending the director's film career. Shot in the wake of the May 1968 strikes and protests that swept across France, the film chronicles the Europe I Podium radio tour that traveled throughout the county's vacation spots providing entertainment and contests. Through a deliberate hodgepodge of carefully edited pieces, Etaix draws slyly satirical connections between the images he shows and the voice-over interview snippets he includes, depicting the country's transition toward complacency and consumerism.

Extras:
Criterion has put together a relatively slim but very worthwhile collection of supplements, including director introductions and a documentary on the filmmaker. All of the special features are presented in 1080p with French Dolby Digital 1.0 audio and optional English subtitles.

Pierre Etaix Introductions - The director provides newly recorded introductions for 'Rupture' & 'Happy Anniversary' (5 min), 'The Suitor' (4 min), 'Yoyo' (5 min), 'As Long as You've Got Your Health' (4 min), 'Le grand amour' (6 min), and 'Land of Milk and Honey' (6 min), describing each project's genesis, influences, challenges, and their reception upon release.

Pierre Etaix, un destin anime (61 min) - This is a 2011 documentary about Etaix that features recent interviews with the director and his various collaborators. Etaix's life-long love of the circus and slapstick comedy is highlighted, and his path toward becoming a clown and filmmaker is recounted in detail. The participants also provide entertaining anecdotes about Etaix's comedic style and directing methods, and there are lots of amusing and enlightening tidbits related to the films' productions shared throughout.

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