|'); document.write(''); //-->|
When Robert De Niro takes Cybill Shepherd into a 42nd Street porno palace in Taxi Driver, she says the immortal line, "Hey, isn't this a dirty movie?" Bertrand Blier's Going Places isn't exactly a dirty movie, but it was certainly an eye- and ear-opener in 1974. In France its socially liberated (irresponsible?) shenanigans were received as high comedy art. Blier's irreverent road movie introduced or brought to prominence several new French personalities while providing an appropriately enigmatic role for the established star Jeanne Moreau.
The movie isn't pornographic, but it has a superficial resemblance to stories by Henry Miller (Quiet Days in Clichy, Tropic of Cancer). Its main characters are incredibly self-obsessed bums and petty crooks seeking to bed every attractive woman in sight and molest any others that cross their path. What Going Places has that the Henry Miller adaptations lack is a genuinely earthy sense of humor that eventually becomes rather sentimental. By any sane measure our leading characters are larcenous scamps that deserve to be scourged within an inch of their lives. Teachers have to deal with clowns like these all the time. But we end up going along with the film's anarchic flow just the same.
The "Going Places" might cause casual American moviegoers to imagine a movie starring Marlo Thomas or Glen Campbell. French audiences got more of a warning, as the original title Les valseuses roughly translates as "testicles" and/or various off-color functions thereof (I don't wanna know). Jean-Claude and Pierrot (Gérard Depardieu & Patrick Dewaere) spend their itinerant lives shoplifting, stealing cars and raising holy hell. They terrorize a woman on the street and then "borrow" a fancy Citroen for a joy ride. When the owner shoots Pierrot with a pistol, they pack off with his beautiful and incredibly passive girlfriend Marie-Ange (Miou-Miou). A doctor patches up Pierrot, who has been nailed in the privates. As a gesture of thanks, the boys lift his money as they depart.
The duo's further adventures are highly sexual and shockingly illegal. They steal cars, motorbikes, and bicycles; when spooked by the cops they jump on a train to who-knows-where. Marie-Ange welcomes them at various intervals for non-stop sex, but the boys are frustrated to find that she derives no physical pleasure, no matter what they do. Alone in a train carriage with a nursing mother (Brigitte Fossey, the child star of Forbidden Games), Jean-Claude and Pierrot half threaten, half seduce her into letting Pierrot feed at her breast. A completely different kind of experience awaits when they accost Jeanne Pirolle (Jeanne Moreau), who they hope will provide them with "experienced sex". Jeanne turns out to have just been released from prison, and they misjudge her entirely. They finally "rescue" a rebellious teenager (Isabelle Huppert) from her bourgeois parents and introduce her to sex with the assistance of Marie-Ange.
We keep waiting for some cloud of morality or sword of retribution to fall on our bad-boy heroes, but nothing of the kind ever happens. For whatever reason, American movies about counterculture lifestyles mostly talk the talk, while this French romp ... well, you know. The mundane realities of life never seem to catch up with Jean-Claude and Pierrot, life's footloose outlaws.
The movie features copious nudity and plenty of raunchy (but good humored) sex talk. With her kitty-cat name, Miou-Miou is quite a vision as Jean-Claude and Pierrot's unabashed sex partner. An example of a bawdy, but witty reversal in Bertrand Blier and Philippe Dumarçay's script (from Blier's novel) is seen Jean-Claude and Pierrot's scandalized reaction when another lover succeeds in bringing Marie-Ange to an orgasm, something that has eluded their best efforts. An afternoon fishing in the viaduct like refugees from an old Renoir movie is shot to hell, as they throw their poles away and try to break the lawn furniture. Many viewers will be justifiably incensed by the overall endorsement of Jean-Claude and Pierrot's molestation of the helpless mother on the train. The scene's "positive" outcome is even more insulting for being so well played. Not much later, the somber Jeanne Moreau episode introduces a note of accountability into the boys' actions ... for a brief spell. When one plays with strangers, even these seen-it-all adventurers are bound to encounter surprises.
Barely 20 years old, freckle-faced Isabelle Huppert could easily pass for 13. Her brief set of scenes begins with a striking "tell off Daddy" tantrum. Restrictive parents can't be faulted for their good intentions, but they never realize that even their perfect kids will bolt from the corral given the right opportunity. Of course, things rarely turn out this well for adventurous young girls.
Gérard Depardieu & Patrick Dewaere are fairly amazing. We not only believe in these two serious public enemies, we find them slipping into the "charming" category. They go nose to nose with fussy doctors, hardboiled store cops and even a cocksure foe with a pistol in his hand, and never back down. Depardieu's character even shows a willingness to engage in male-on-male sex play, which Dewaere's Pierrot rejects. The buddy-buddy pair remains resolutely masculine. Pierrot suffers his own crisis of manhood after the shooting incident when his ability to perform sexually takes a vacation. It's hilarious to hear Jean-Claude coach him from the sidelines, assuring him that the condition will only be temporary. These guys are consistently funny. That doesn't mean that we want anything to do with anybody like them.
Kino Classics' (Kino Lorber's) Blu-ray of Going Places is a beauty, with bright, sharp and colorful HD images. The only home video version I'd seen of the show was a fairly wretched VHS tape. I think the subtitles on this new edition are more accurate, because I was able to follow Jean-Claude and Pierrot's flow of obscene patter much more easily.
Kino includes a still gallery, and an original French teaser-trailer that consists only of crude cartoon animation and a voiceover discussing what seem to be 30 different French alternates or euphemisms for the word testicles (French teachers take note). The coming attraction doesn't even list any actor names. The movie was restricted to children under 13 in France, which must mean that a lot of very sexually aware French kids were on the loose in the 1970s. 1
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Going Places Blu-ray rates:
1. Don't ask me for a value judgment -- I have to deal with people that think any acknowledgement of the existence of sex is an outrage, as well as people who will let their kids see and do anything.
Reviews on the Savant main site have additional credits information and are often updated and annotated with reader input and graphics.
Also, don't forget the 2011 Savant Wish List.
T'was Ever Thus.