Going Places (1974)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Road Movie, Sex Comedy, Black Comedy, Buddy Film  |   Run Time - 118 min.  |   Countries - France  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Bertrand Blier's first major hit announced him as one of the most important and controversial cinematic voices of the '70s. A frenetic adaptation of the director's own novel, Les Valseuses follows the exploits of two rowdy, sexist pigs, Jean-Claude (Gerard Depardieu) and Pierrot (Patrick Dewaere), as they pilfer and plunder their way across the French countryside - groping, molesting, and forcing themselves on virtually every comely woman who crosses their paths. On the surface, the writer-director's intent seems to revolve around making the audience alternately laugh and cringe, with some of the most repugnant behavior and dialogue ever put onscreen in the context of a comedy. In that he succeeds. He also constantly tests the audience's tolerance level - particularly by having many of the women respond favorably to the men's crudball advances. In Blier's underrated Calmos, the fantasy subtext helped justify and account for the behavior of the characters. But in this earlier outing - despite Pauline Kael's assessment of the film as "both a celebration and a satire of men's daydreams" - there are no oneiric trappings to soften the blow. Blier presents the narrative in the context of our everyday world, which makes the onscreen events far more jarring. One can't help but admire the uncompromising nature of Blier's machismo-fueled vision, and much of the film is riotously funny, but it benefits even more from an underlying tenderness - glimpses of vulnerability in the men, manifest most clearly in a touching, ultimately tragic sequence with Jeanne Moreau. Despite this sensitivity, U.S. and English critics didn't take kindly to this farce. Many blasted it as misogynistic and vile, limning Moreau's character's grotesque fate (which is indeed shocking) as brutally exploitative. Yet still others read Les Valseuses as a perfect reflection of the zeitgeist at the height of the sexual revolution. Despite split critical opinion, though, the movie did wonders for Blier's career; it became one of the most popular French features of 1974, and foreshadowed many other succès d'estimes for the director, including Get Out Your Handkerchiefs, Beau Pere and Too Beautiful For You.