Calmos (1976)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Black Comedy, Farce, Satire, Sex Comedy, Surrealist Film  |   Release Date - Feb 11, 1976 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 96 min.  |   Countries - France   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Nathan Southern

Though it offended many viewers and confused thousands of others upon release in 1976, Bertrand Blier's wild, ribald comic fantasy is one of the most misunderstood works in his catalogue. It grows far more amiable and comprehensible if put into the context of the period in which it was made. Created at the height of the women's movement in France and the U.S., the film literalizes the fears of men during the mid-'70s, when many were terrified of women gaining equal rights. Blier places his movie in an offbeat fantasy realm that only declares itself about 45 minutes into the picture. Within this context, he plays off of gender reversal, swapping the female-as-victim and male-as-victimizer roles so commonly seen in movies, and thus providing a concrete manifestation of the subconscious guilt that chauvinists feel regarding the way that they themselves have mistreated women in the past. He also takes men's shared obsessions with sex and throws them right back in the characters' faces, by upping the carnal pervasiveness onscreen to a surrealistic level - the two poor slobs at the center of the story wind up so bombarded and so suffocated by coital domination that they would probably prefer to die rather than engage in additional bedroom acts. The results of all this are truly inspired - a successful and frequently hilarious skewering of misogynist neurosis. Only the last ten minutes of the material fall apart, as Blier loses continuity; he takes an inexplicable leap into the future that fails to resolve the movie's central narrative thread, and loses coherence. This disappointment aside, however, the remainder of the film succeeds as such a bold, uncompromising and comically original exploration of the chauvinist ego that no other feature in memory has quite replicated it, before or since.