Seventies French film Les Valseuses a/k/a Going Places is an often disturbing erotic farce. The French title is apparently a vulgar euphemism for testicles, which gives you some idea of the level of discourse that director Bertrand Blier is aiming for, though he pulls off the film with skill and wit.
Jean-Claude (Gerard Depardieu in his first major film role and Pierrot (Patrick Dewaere) are a couple of down at the heels grifters, who roam across France looking for sex and fine food. They have no problem with copping a feel, slapping a woman around, or forcing themselves on her sexually. Neither do they see much of an issue with stealing money or cars, which they do eight or nine times during the film. In fact, it is through stealing a car that they meet the girl who becomes something of an anchor or a muse for them. She's Marie-Ange (Miou-Miou), and they grab her up as they escape from her boss, who is threatening them with a gun. The first thing they do is sell her out for sex to a junkyard owner in order to get a new vehicle.
Inexplicably, she doesn't seem to hold this against them, and continues to take them in as they periodically come back to her apartment during their crisscrossing of France, despite the insults, slapping around and semi-forced sex. Jean-Claude even shoots her in the leg, ties her to a chair and leaves her in the salon they've just robbed at one point. But still, she welcomes them back. They're fascinated with her, you see. She's frigid, and gets not joy whatsoever out of sexual relations. They fancy themselves great guns in the intercourse department, and are determined to get her off, but to no avail. Jean-Claude and Pierrot are sort of a raging id, completely unrestrained by concerns of morality, mortality or consequences. They go wherever the urges of the moment take them.
And while Marie-Ange is their anchor, they spend much of the film roaming, getting into and out of scrapes, always on the hunt for more fleshy gratification. They meet an ex-con Jeanne (Jeanne Moreau) and treat to her to new clothes, fine meals and a night of passion. Jean-Claude pays a woman on a train to breastfeed Pierrot. They hijack cars, and take in Jeanne's son Jacques (Jacques Chailleux) for a while, sharing Marie-Ange with him. Whatever strikes them. The thing is, Jean-Claude and Pierrot are a bit bi-polar. At times they are charming, even sweet. They seem honestly concerned about Jeanne and her needs as a freshly released convict. At other times they are callous and cruel, and downright creepy. The threat of sexual violence constantly hangs in the air about them. They are not what would generally be termed nice, respectable or good people. And yet the consequences of their actions never seem to adhere to them. They inhabit a fantasy world in which sexual assault is not that big of a deal, either to the victim or perpetrator, and the carefree life of crime and sex doesn't seem to do any damage. They are constantly on the run, pursued by those who would impose society's rules on them. And perhaps this is something of the point, a look into the untrammeled desires of young men.
Going Places can make the viewer uncomfortable at times, and this is surely intended. Jean-Claude and Pierrot are not meant to be sympathetic or positive characters, but they are meant to be enlightening. Blier plays on the audience's taboos and fantasies, portraying the pair with all their warts, open for criticism, while he maintains his distance, preferring not to condemn them. He lets them remain an ambiguity, and allows the audience to make its own judgment. The film can be difficult viewing, but it is presented with skill. Highly recommended.