My all-time favorite buddy movie is Bertrand Blier’s “Going Places” (1974), whose French title “Les Valseuses” is Gallic slang for testicles. Yes, it’s that brash.
Recently released on DVD from Kino, the film follows thugs Jean-Claude (Gerard Depardieu, in his breakout role) and Pierrot (Patrick Dewaere) as they wander the countryside committing robberies and terrifying women.
There’s occasional gunplay, hostage-taking and car-stealing. A woman they pick up (Jeanne Moreau) ends up killing herself.
From the sound of it, “Going Places” ought to be branded a misogynist outrage, but it’s anything but. It’s one of the most alarming, comical renditions of male sexual fantasy ever put on screen.
Its lyrical eroticism, with a little slapstick thrown in, is the closest the movies have ever come to the early works of Henry Miller. (The marvelous score is by Stephane Grapelli.) The saving grace of “Going Places,” which is true of much of Blier’s subsequent work, is its air of self-mockery.
A few of its more outre sequences have become classics, notably the interlude where the two guys walk in on a wary young mother (Brigitte Fossey) in the deserted end of a train car and Pierrot suckles her. The men even have a brief go at each other, although they seem more dazed than enthralled by the encounter.
Seduced by Stepdaughter
Blier, whose father Bernard was a beloved French comic actor, had directed a number of films before “Going Places,” which he adapted from his own novel.
His career peaked four years later with “Get Out Your Handkerchiefs,” which won an Oscar for best foreign film. It stars Depardieu as a distraught husband who tries to get Dewaere to warm up his sexually unresponsive wife.
Blier also directed the outrageous “Calmos” (1976), aka “Femmes Fatales,” which features a fantasy sequence set inside the cavernous walls of a woman’s vagina; and the murder comedy “Buffet Froid” (1979), which co-starred Bernard Blier.
In “Beau Pere” (1981), Dewaere plays a man seduced by his 14-year-old stepdaughter. (This was one of Dewaere’s last films. He killed himself a year later). In Blier’s “Trop Belle pour toi” (1989), released in the U.S. as “Too Beautiful For You,” Depardieu plays a car salesman who dumps his model-perfect wife (Carole Bouquet) for his frumpy receptionist (Josiane Balasko).
Although Blier has subsequently directed a half-dozen films, his reputation has declined largely because his movies rarely get distributed internationally anymore. He deserves better.
(Peter Rainer is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own).