Le Grand Amour (1969)
Director: Piere Etaix
Cast: Pierre Étaix, Annie Fratellini, Nicole Calfan
Plot: Pierre married Florence, the only daughter of a small industrialist. 15 years later, he is the boss, but his middle-class life worries him a lot. When a new young and lovely secretary comes, he starts dreaming.
Genre: Comedy / Romance
Awards: Nom. for Palme d'Or (Cannes).
Rating: PG for some mature themes.
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
Beds as cars? Why not? French writer-director Pierre Etaix gives the romantic-comedy a whimsical treatment in Le Grand Amour, or The Great Love, an ode to love and lust done in a carefree and light-hearted style that recall the films of Charles Chaplin. In some way, it may have also influenced Jean-Pierre Jeunet whose films Amelie (2001) and Micmacs (2009) retain some of the visual-comic qualities that adorn Le Grand Amour.
Released in 1969, it has been sort-of-forgotten over the decades, but has since been revived in a restored print for a new generation of moviegoers to appreciate. It may look somewhat dated, but at its heart remains a desire to make audiences laugh without consequences.
Le Grand Amour opens with a serious wedding ceremony in a church, perhaps one that has overstayed its welcome, with the sequence played for comedic effect. Etaix stars as Pierre, the man marrying the woman who would eventually become his wife. They lead a blissful middle-class life, with Pierre working in an upper management position in a factory... until he gets a young and pretty French girl as his new personal assistant.
Smitten by love (or lust), Pierre finds a new sense of purpose in life. Much of Le Grand Amour rely on physical gags, comic dialogue and acting to drive the plot along, with Etaix portraying a likable character who daydreams of what things could have been if circumstances were to have happened differently.
Occasionally, the film loses its narrative drive and meanders. It is not always entertaining, but it is generally fun. Etaix attempts to infuse magical realism associated with thought into some of the film’s more bizarre sequences, in particular the beds-as-cars dream sequence, where Pierre daydreams of himself in a bed-car with his pretty secretary, travelling down an empty road with scenic views. They also meet other ‘bed riders’ in this amusing sequence.
There are also other parts of Le Grand Amour that are visual reenactments of thoughts of the future, somewhat reminding me of the fertile mind of a zoned-out Ben Stiller in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013). Many will not get the chance to see this sweet and lovely film, but if you are fortunate enough to find a copy, there’s no harm spending a fun ninety minutes with the charming Pierre Etaix.
Verdict: Hilarious in spades, this French comedy is sort of like a whimsical ode to love and lust.
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