Young Gérard Depardieu & Patrick Dewaere Pick up Jeanne Moreau and Isabelle Huppert on a French Wilding Spree
DIRECTED BY BERTRAND BLIER/FRENCH/1974
BLU-RAY STREET DATE: OCTOBER 11, 2022/COHEN FILM COLLECTION (via KINO LORBER)
Two guys go tearing down the street on foot in the dead of night. Paper money goes billowing out of their pockets as they run. The hairdressing shop that they’ve just robbed is now an utter disaster. The young lady who works there is tied to a chair. The guard dog might be dead. But the two guys didn’t inflict this fate upon the poor pooch. The girl did. Young… blonde… pretty…. (and played with empathy-inducing blankness by Miou-Miou) How did she get in this fix? Even before this ill-fated night, her story was not a happy one. But Going Places, a quite controversial French hit of 1974, is not her story.
As for the two fellas (hot-stuff studly stars of the moment Gérard Depardieu and Patrick Dewaere as Jean-Claude and Pierrot), they’re Kubrickian droogs in mid-1970s France; directionless, simply drifting from one place to the next as they merrily wreak ugly havoc. After the hair salon job, they get themselves some halfway decent threads. That’s to replace the dungarees and T-shirts they’ve been running about in. Then, it’s into a bowling alley to pick up a few birds and get in a few rolls before the inevitable hanky panky. But this time, their chauvinistic presumptions fail them. While Going Places is not a tale of these outwardly masculine firebrands being overtly brought low, humiliation certainly finds them more and more often as the two-hour endeavor unspools. Once Pierrot’s gunshot wound to the groin heals (A situation Jean-Claude has zero sympathy for), the guys seem to blend more and more into one.
Though undeniably chauvinistic, the director’s leering gaze is less about the put-upon women that find themselves in the sexual wake of these two ne’er-do-wells, but rather their basic movements from here to there. So much of this film is the actors walking down the street, or riding mass transit, or driving cars (stolen or borrowed), and of course hightailing it away from whatever gross shenanigans they’ve just indulged in. One then supposes that this irksomely unpleasant film is called Going Places for a reason. On his audio commentary track on the new Cohen Film Collection Blu-ray, Richard Peña, who is a professor of film studies at Columbia University, goes as far as to state that the film is all about the central characters’ “movement through space with no destination”.
Then they happen upon Jeanne Moreau, playing a very single and very alone older woman who outclasses them by at least ten to one. Nevertheless, she finds herself interested in their virile young company. She manages to dominate a hotel room threesome almost entirely unexposed. Yet, even this seemingly idealistic encounter finds a way not to end well. Her role, though thoroughly supporting, infuses Going Places with a needed dose of class. In time, the very same will be true of then-teenage costar Isabelle Huppert in a myriad of other films. Here, Huppert gives cursory representation to a disaffected younger generation of poor little rich kids.
Directed by Bertrand Blier (the maker of the later Oscar-winning Get Out Your Handkerchiefs) and based upon his own novel Les Valseuses (which, yes, basically translates to “The Testicles”), Going Places fully earns its standing as a film shockingly revealing of its time, but also resonates as something of an indictment to the repugnant nature of the two central nuts. That said, contemporary viewers may likely find said indictment not nearly strong enough. The challenge then becomes reconciling the humanity within Jean-Claude and Pierrot while still never letting them off the hook. Perhaps that’s a useful challenge? There’s something about Depardieu and Dewaere that make this possible, if not at all inevitable.
Cohen Film’s new Blu-ray presentation of Going Places (Les Valseuses) bears its earthy mid-70s veneer in an internalizing way. Watching the disc feels entirely like a trip into that very specific unsexy time and place. From the outset, Going Places is troubling in its characters’ libidinous roughness, though completely satisfying in its appearance and audio, particularly its unique musical carefree fiddle score by Stéphane Grappelli. Though Richard Peña’s commentary is the only real bonus feature, it is a fine accompaniment to this increasingly complex work. Though Peña’s delivery is has its silent patches, he’s a well-educated guide who’s a pleasure to listen to. Further details on the making of Going Places can be had in Florence Strauss’ 2019 documentary series about French film producers, The Last Tycoons. That set is available on DVD from Distrib via Icarus Films.