Get Out Your Handkerchiefs is so distinctive, so unclassifiable, so surprising in its remedy of relationships and but so oddly, endearingly relatable.
Bertrand Blier is aware of luck had a component to play in fetching him the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film in 1978, for Get Out Your Handkerchiefs. Four a long time later, he advised Variety, “[Ingmar] Bergman made a masterpiece that year, Autumn Sonata. In any normal situation he should have won! He won at the Golden Globes, for instance. It made perfect sense; he was the best director in the world.” So what occurred? Eventually, Blier acquired an evidence. “Bergman had all kinds of tax issues in Sweden, and he was not happy about it… he pulled his film from the Oscars to punish Sweden.”
Normally, you may name this a tragedy, provided that Autumn Sonata was Bergman’s last movie made for theatrical exhibition. (His subsequent work was produced for tv, even when a few of it ended up being screened in cinema halls.) But then, it’s exhausting to begrudge Get Out Your Handkerchiefs its Oscar win. It’s so distinctive, so unclassifiable, so surprising in its remedy of relationships and but so oddly, endearingly relatable (in the event you consider that attraction can not actually be “explained”). It’s among the many lightest “heavy movies” I’ve seen, within the sense that hardly ever do movies deal with such ten-ton topics with such disarming casualness.
And hardly ever have I seen an “art-house movie” arrange its premise with such directness, throughout the first 10 minutes, that are set in and round a modest-looking restaurant. Raoul (Gérard Depardieu) is eating together with his spouse, Solange (Carole Laure). Looking at her peck on the meals, he decides he’s had it. He says, “I want to understand.” “Understand what?” “Why you’re never hungry, for anything!” It’s not simply the meals. It’s life. He loves her deeply however he is aware of she’s sad, even perhaps depressed. She’s been this fashion for some time. He thinks it’s as a result of she’s sick of him. He hits on an answer. “You know what’s wrong? You need another guy!”
Raoul is aware of that the person seated alone, close by, has been eyeing Solange. He refers to this man and asks Solange, “The guy with glasses, you dig him?” She says he’s very extraordinary. Raoul says, “You don’t have to marry him. But just for some kicks… he seems decent, right? I just want you to be happy, see? I’m not on an ego trip. There’s nothing I wouldn’t give you. If you want to sleep with a guy, go on, he’s all yours.” She refuses. He insists. “Come on Solange, don’t be negative. Let’s try to be modern.” So he goes to the person, whose name is Stéphane (Patrick Dewaere). At first, naturally, Stéphane is outraged by the proposition. When he realises Raoul is critical, he agrees. Raoul says, “Just bring back her smile. With me, she’s lost it. If you get her to smile, you’ll be my pal.”
At the guts of this trade is a person who thinks he is aware of what’s finest for his spouse, a person who enlists one other man to assist him with this “project” of constructing his spouse smile once more, a person who thinks he’s “modern” sufficient to endure a ménage à trois. Another a part of the set-up is that this different man agreeing to be a part of the experiment. But as this stretch unfolded, I stored fascinated with Solange — and Blier seems to have anticipated this thought. He has Raoul step out on the road for a minute, hail a passer-by — a middle-aged lady — and inform her what he’s simply performed. Afterwards, he takes her to Solange, who’s now sitting with Stéphane. The lady asks what none of those males have bothered to ask: “May we know what the principal party thinks?”
In a daily movie, we’d discover out why Solange has stopped smiling, and the way the ménage à trois association performs out. (We may marvel: “Will she continue to be with Raoul or will her affections shift to the Mozart-mad Stéphane?”) But Blier stands back from this state of affairs, nearly as if he is aware of simply what we know, and that he sees simply what we see. This is the genius of the movie. It doesn’t get into the interiority of the characters. It doesn’t “explain”. It simply exhibits the externally seen actions of those people, after which tells us: Mull over it. Make of it what you’ll!
This could be very uncommon for a topic of this type. There are different art-house movies, in fact, that don’t “explain” every little thing. But even when we’re annoyed with the characters’ actions, we see a little bit of where they’re coming from. Take François Truffaut’s deeply affecting historic drama, The Story of Adèle H. We wish to weep with frustration on the heroine’s obsession with this man who clearly doesn’t look after her, however we additionally perceive that that is what “obsession” is. It’s not “logical”. But how will we take Solange’s calm acceptance of Raoul’s proposal, once we don’t know what’s occurring inside her in any respect?
Arion Berger wrote within the Criterion web site: “The story unfolds with the implacable and often hilarious logic of a dream, accepting each unreasonable emotion, each fantastic action as perfectly understandable in the chaotic world of contemporary love.” Pauline Kael summed it up even higher. In a characteristically insightful piece, about Blier’s work, she mentioned, “And sex between men and women is insanely mixed up with men’s infantile longings and women’s maternal passions. Sexually, life is a Keystone comedy, and completely amoral — we have no control over who or what excites us.”
Indeed. Midway by way of the film, which in some ways is a “comedy” or perhaps a farce, Solange begins to chortle, due to a teenage boy who first says he likes her higher than he likes his mom, and later seems to be up her nightie. She finds with this boy what two grown males couldn’t give her. I can not start to think about what right this moment’s woke viewers will make of all this, and even back then, I can start to think about how shocked (or grossed-out) the overall audiences had been. But at the very least with Bertrand Blier’s motives, there’s no thriller. In a 1979 interview, he known as Solange the proper image of femininity, the perfect, as a result of nobody understands her. He labelled it the masculine viewpoint: the lack to grasp a lady.
At least about one factor, he could also be right. Then, as now, this might be a “masculine” viewpoint, and Blier may be thought of one more of these lionised male artistes whose artwork and attitudes are problematic to females. I’m reminded of the passage in Gabriel García Márquez’s Love within the Time of Cholera, where a lady desires “to die of love in [her rapist’s] arms. The stranger disappears, but she wants to find him. “She would say to anyone who would listen to her: ‘If you ever hear of a big, strong fellow who raped a poor black girl from the street on Drowned Men’s Jetty, one October fifteenth at about half-past eleven at night, tell him where he can fine me’.”
Revisiting artwork does that, generally. It makes you realise that sure issues, even when they’re not fallacious (these are works of creativeness, in any case), can provide rise to debates concerning the rightness of all of it. To me, the rightness in Get Out Your Handkerchiefs comes not from who Solange is (or why she is the plan she is), however what she does. Two males sought to “fix” her. She selected a boy. This, to me, is her assertion: If males are so infantile (taking off from Kael’s phrase, “infantile”), I’d as nicely be with a baby.
Baradwaj Rangan is Editor, Film Companion (South).
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