Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5
Original Title: L’événement le plus important depuis que l’homme a marché sur la Lune
France/Italy, 1973. Lira Films, Roas Produzioni. Screenplay by Jacques Demy. Cinematography by Andreas Winding. Music by Michel Legrand. Production Design by Bernard Evein. Costume Design by Gitt Magrini. Film Editing by Anne-Marie Cotret.
Driving instructor Marcello Mastroianni comes down with a terrible headache and cancels his plans that evening to take his coiffeuse wife Catherine Deneuve and their son to the movies. When his co-worker offers him tickets to a Mireille Mathieu concert instead, he takes them but has to leave early because he is still ailing, and Deneuve begs him to see a doctor because she’s terrified that he is gravely ill and that she’ll lose him before his time. Consulting with a physician, Mastroianni learns not that he is ill but that he is a miracle: he’s pregnant and will have a child within nine months! It’s only natural that humanity has progressed this way thanks to the developments in our food and the changes in our social order, he is told, consulting with his doctor’s more learned colleague who puts his story into the world news and makes him an international celebrity.
After swallowing the shock and calming Deneuve’s fear of his infidelity, Mastroianni embraces the thought of his upcoming blessed event, even becoming the mascot for a neonatal products company. Were this film made by a more cynical director it would be a look at how destructive humans are about modern miracles, but with Jacques Demy at the helm it instead focuses on his usual good-natured caprices, Mastroianni’s friends react like curious children at the news and Deneuve’s clientele are thrilled with the possibilities of their men taking over domestic duties.
Demy is poking fun at the more ridiculous reactions to the gains made by the feminist movement in the seventies, asking those who fear change if they really know what it is they fear, setting it in a warm, tight-knit community of friends and neighbours whose everyday lives might not be dazzling but are colourful and vibrant. The problem is that he has more conceit than he has narrative and winsomeness does not fill three acts adequately, Mastroianni going to find his ex-wife, played in a wonderful scene by Marisa Pavan, is the only time where the film pursues some kind of interesting conflict but then leaves it behind too quickly. By the last leg of its journey, the story feels like it is grasping at its next move and the ending is a disappointing copout.
Made during a short run of films that the real-life (at the time) couple starred in together, it’s an opportunity to see Deneuve and Mastroianni’s chemistry at work and an interesting case of Demy telling this kind of lighthearted tale without his usual use of a musical score.