Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
Original Title: Tant qu’on a la santé
France, 1966. C.A.P.A.C., Les Films de la Colombe. Screenplay by Pierre Étaix, Jean-Claude Carriere. Cinematography by Jean Boffety. Produced by Paul Claudon. Music by René Giner, Luce Klein, Jean Paillaud. Production Design by Jacques D’Ovidio. Film Editing by Henri Lanoe, Raymond Lewin, Roger Salesse, Andrée Werlin, Marie-Josèphe Yoyotte.
Pierre Etaix goes purely conceptual, abandoning the plotline threading through his previous feature-length pantomimes and presenting a collection of short pieces arranged around a theme.
The first, Insomnie, is shot in full colour and shows Etaix unable to sleep and keeping himself awake longer by reading a vampire novel. The fantasies he goes into and the punch-line ending make this the least witty of the bunch, but as his first experiment in colour it succeeds aesthetically.
In the second, Le Cinematographe, Etaix arrives late to the movies and has a wickedly funny time trying to get a good seat, beset by selfish lovers, inconveniently placed posts and easy to lose snacks. The latter part of the skit goes into lampooning contemporary advertising and isn’t as funny as the first half, but it’s definitely an amusing segment.
The third, Tant qu’on a la santé, is the best of the bunch, a take down of modern day life whose perpetual noise of machines and crowds of people wear down the average citizen enough to keep psychiatrists in business…but who is looking after the psychiatrists?
From the delights of urban blight we go to the bucolic countryside for part four, Nous n’irons plus aux bois, in which a city couple who have come to the woods for a romantic picnic become the bane of existence for a farmer trying to erect a fence, and a game hunter trying to score an animal.
As always with Etaix, the skits are droll, wise, pointed but never cruel, pulled off with an effortless sense of continuity.
The Criterion Collection: #655