Le Grand Amour (The Great Love) / Free Screening!

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Comedian, illustrator, gagman, film director – Pierre Étaix has done it all, and yet he remains largely unknown outside his homeland of France. Looking to correct that situation, Janus Films has recently restored several of Étaix’s magically strange and hilariously unique feature films, made between 1961 and 1971, to their original glory and released them to cinemas around the US. This new retrospective includes what is generally considered the jewel of the Étaix collection, his 1969 slapstick marriage romp, Le Grand Amour. In this gently satirical tale of temptation and desire, a good-natured suit-and-tie man, played by writer/director Pierre Etaix himself, finds himself hopelessly attracted to his gorgeous new secretary, despite having a loving and patient wife at home. From this simple, standard premise, Etaix weaves a constantly surprising web of complexly conceived jokes, outlandish physical stunts (including a spectacular “rolling bed on the highway” sequence that must be seen to be believed) and hilarious cultural commentary. Le Grand Amour is a cutting, nearly Buñuelian takedown of the bourgeoisie that somehow doesn’t have a mean bone in its body. Praised by directors as diverse as Truffaut, Bresson, Godard, and David Lynch, Étaix’s films combine exquisite physical comedy with inventive sight gags and a slightly surreal visual sensibility, and this newly restored version of Le Grand Amour offers the perfect opportunity to discover a neglected master of comic filmmaking. (Dir. by Pierre Étaix, 1969, France, in French with subtitles, 87 mins., Not Rated, Janus Films) Digital