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655 - Pierre Etaix


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#1 Izo

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 05:09 PM

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A French comedy master whose films went unseen for decades as a result of legal tangles, director-actor Pierre Etaix is a treasure the cinematic world has rediscovered and taken up with relish. His work can be placed in the spectrum of classic physical comedy with that of Jacques Tati and Jerry Lewis, but it also stands alone. These films, influenced by Etaix's experiences as a circus acrobat and clown and by the silent film comedies he adored, are elegantly deadpan, but as an on-screen presence, Etaix radiates warmth. This collection includes all of his films, including five features, The Suitor (1962), Yoyo (1965), As Long as You've Got Your Health (1966), Le grand amour (1969), and Land of Milk and Honey (1971) - most of them collaborations with the great screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriére - and three shorts, Rupture (1961), the Oscar-winning Happy Anniversary (1962), and Feeling Good (1966). Not one of these is anything less than a bracing and witty delight.


COLLECTOR'S SET INCLUDES:

THE SUITOR
France • 1962 • 84 minutes • Black and White • 1.66:1 • French
Pierre Etaix's first feature introduces the droll humor and oddball charm of its unique writer-director-star. As a tribute to Buster Keaton, Etaix fashioned this lovable story of a privileged yet sheltered young man (played by Etaix himself, in a nearly silent performance) who, under pressure from his parents, sets out to find a young woman to marry—though he has a hard time tearing his mind away from the famous singer whose face decorates the walls of his bedroom.

YOYO
France • 1965 • 98 minutes • Black and White • 1.66:1 • French
This elaborately conceived and brilliantly mounted comedy is Pierre Etaix's most beloved movie, as well as his personal favorite. Beginning as a clever homage to silent film, complete with intertitles, Yoyo blossoms into a poignant family saga (in which Etaix plays both a father and his grown son) and a celebration of the circus Etaix adored. Chock-full of nimble sight gags and ingenious sound effects, Yoyo is very sweet, a little bit melancholy, and wholly imaginative.

AS LONG AS YOU'VE GOT YOUR HEALTH
France • 1966 • 68 minutes • Color, Black and White • 1.66:1 • French
In this endlessly diverting compendium of four short films, Pierre Etaix regards the 1960s from his askew but astute perspective. Each part is as technically impressive as it is riotous: a man attempts to read a novel about vampires beside his sleeping wife but cannot seem to separate reality from fiction; a simple afternoon at the movies becomes a consumer-culture assault; a jarringly noisy urban landscape keeps a city's population on edge; and a day in the country means something different to a picnicking city couple, a hunter, and a farmer.

LE GRAND AMOUR
France • 1969 • 87 minutes • Color • 1.66:1 • French
Despite having a loving and patient wife at home, a good-natured suit-and-tie man, played by writer-director Pierre Etaix, finds himself hopelessly attracted to his gorgeous new secretary in this gently satirical tale of temptation. From this simple, standard premise, Etaix weaves a constantly surprising web of complexly conceived jokes. Le grand amour is a cutting, nearly Buñuelian takedown of the bourgeoisie that somehow doesn't have a mean bone in its body.

LAND OF MILK AND HONEY
France • 1971 • 76 minutes • Color • 1.66:1 • French
Pierre Etaix's most radical film, and perhaps unsurprisingly the one that effectively ended his career in cinema, Land of Milk and Honey is a fascinating investigative documentary about post–May '68 French society. In it, Etaix trains his discerning eye on idle summer vacationers, but the film has bigger fish to fry, asking pertinent questions about the sexualization of culture, class and gender inequality, media and advertising, and even architecture.

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION
  • New digital restorations of all five features and three short films, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray edition
  • New interview with director Pierre Etaix
  • New video introductions by Etaix to seven of the films
  • Pierre Etaix, un destin animé (2010), a portrait of the life and work of the director by his wife, Odile Etaix
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic David Cairns


#2 Izo

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 05:10 PM

NOTES:
  • DVD/BD Release Date: April 23, 2013
  • Blu-Ray cover artwork:

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#3 Moe Dickstein

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 08:16 PM

So I guess this is like Complete Vigo, just one spine...
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#4 Izo

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 09:14 PM

It appears that way, it's also priced more like an Eclipse set than a big box set.

I'm irrationally excited for this release, considering I know nothing about Etaix. Has anyone been lucky enough to catch any of the screenings of his films over the last few years?

#5 Opale

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 11:36 PM

Pierre Étaix started his career with Jacques Tati which was also one of his best friend. His films, especially YO-YO are considered great classics equivalent to Tati's work but there were conflicts with the right holders of the films and they remained unseen for maybe 30 years until 2-3 years ago went they finally got restored and released in France... This is a huge release and certainly one of the most important release of the year.

#6 Izo

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 01:06 AM

Have you seen these films, Opale? I'm absolutely fascinated by this release, and I'm trying to figure out where my expectations should be.

#7 Opale

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 01:17 AM

No I've only seen some parts of his films. The Montreal restrospective happened a few months before I got there... When I saw Jean-Claude Carrière in Paris 4 years ago he kept saying Pierre Étaix was a great man. I really can't wait to get that set!

#8 Izo

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 01:19 AM

Follow up question: How do you pronounce "Etaix"?

#9 CSM126

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 05:55 AM

As far as I know it's pronounced like A (as in Letter A, not "uh"), Tex. A-Tex.

#10 Opale

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 01:34 PM

Right. «É» is pronounced just like the english letter «A». A word that ends in «ai» as also the same pronounciation (É), but in «ais» or «aix», the «ai» sounds like the french «è» and the english «ae» of aesthetic. The «s» is muted and the «x» is pronounced...

#11 Moe Dickstein

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Posted 28 April 2013 - 11:48 PM

Watching The Suitor right now and what a funny and inventive film. It's a crime these aren't better known.
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#12 OMEGA5

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 06:24 PM

I've watched The Suitor and Yoyo. Both were quite good, but I've kind of fallen for Yoyo. Not sure what it was but I kind of felt like a kid while watching it, it was just a lot of fun. Really glad I got this set.

#13 Izo

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 10:27 PM

I've made it through most of this set, all of the sets and features so far except Le Grand Amour and Land of Milk and Honey, and I'm prepared to agree with Criterion's assessment that this set represents a major discovery, at least in the U.S., of a great talent.  The shorts, particularly Happy Anniversary, are all utterly charming, with wonderful physical comedy and a sweetness that leaks through the lair of cynicism on the surface of all of these films. 

 

The Suitor follows the lead of the shorts, and indeed at times it does feel like a collection of short films, or even more accurately like a silent film.  In particular, the film owes a great deal to Buster Keaton's Seven Chances, but even so Etaix's screen persona comes off as unique and his direction is full of clever little touches that are completely unexpected.  Take the film's brilliant opening shot of a science fiction landscape.  I dare not ruin the gag, but I found it to be surprising - even shocking - and absolutely delightful.

 

Even better, and my favorite film of the set so far, is the gentle and self-reflexive Yoyo.  I was hooked, from the film's lengthy silent opening (complete with title cards!), to the inexplicable final moments.  Everything about this film worked for me, even though it should be disjointed with the almost episodic nature of the plot and the way the film's protagonist shifts after the long silent opening, but somehow it worked.  Possibly it's the way every single moment, every single gag of the film is filled to the brim with absolute love for its subject.  In the end, it really does feel like Pierre Etaix's love letter to his beloved circus, and call me a sap but I fell in love with it too.

 

A decided step down from both features is As Long as We've Got Our Health, though it's to be expected with the omnibus nature of the film.  Probably predictably, the opening segment with the Hammer-like vampire story was my favorite, but all four shorts that make up the feature are pretty good to varying degrees. 

 

What really holds all of these movies together is Etaix's absolutely brilliant performances and exceedingly clever direction.  He's always playing pretty much variations on the same character in each film, very much the same way that Keaton did.  I just really don't have anything bad to say.



#14 Izo

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Posted 21 July 2014 - 05:23 PM

I made it around to Le Grande Amour today, and it's a surprisingly bitter film about marriage and love, and it's every bit as clever as the other films found in this set.  I place is between The Suitor and Yoyo as far as my favorites, but that isn't meant to disparage the picture at all.  It's pretty delightful, if unexpectedly melancholy.  The recurring motif of gossipy old ladies is used to absolute perfection, and the brilliant sequence early on where a Pierre passes a lady on the street and it gradually becomes through gossip a sexy romp was one of the films highlights.  I do find it difficult to put much heavy analysis into gag-heavy films like this, as I feel like I'm just ruining the best bits.  Instead, I'll just say that I love this entire set.

 

Is anyone else working through this set?  It's pretty incredible.






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