Blu-ray Review: Get Out Your Handkerchiefs (1978)

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Shopping for a new lover for his depressed wife, Raoul (Gérard Depardieu) gets more than he bargained for when the man he picks up, Stéphane (Patrick Dewaere) not only falls in love with his wife but becomes his new best friend in the process. And while normally this would be a recipe for disaster, in writer-director Bertrand Blier's hands, it's just the beginning of what turns out to be a beautiful friendship.

Highly verbal in the streets and easygoing in the sheets, in Blier's freewheeling sex comedy Get Out Your Handkerchiefs, the two men bond over Mozart (who they feel would've been their third amigo) as well as their devotion to the sweet but chronically ill Solange (Carole Laure) who they're sure they can cure with sex, if not with them than perhaps someone else.

Treated as little more than a neurotic sex object by the men in her life who are desperate to give her the baby they're convinced will fix everything, the inarguably underwritten and frequently cavalierly nude Laure is easily the most shortchanged participant in Blier's daring ode to l'amour. Still, once you give into the shenanigans, it's hard to deny the effervescently irreverent film's charms.

And indeed Handkerchiefs' success is entirely dependent upon the laissez-faire attitude of the first half of the film in order to adequately prepare viewers for the startling turns of the second, which finds Solange seduced by a genius outcast who, despite acting even more mature than her other lovers, has barely entered his teen years. A flabbergasting development, it's to the cast's extraordinary credit that they're able to sell Blier's ribald, increasingly satirical twists without derailing the picture completely as a gender swapped spin on Lolita rather than a remarkably frank romcom.

Intriguingly, Handkerchiefs sent shockwaves in the American media with its one step forward, two steps back depiction and treatment of Laure more than anything else when it was released at the height of the sexual revolution. Nonetheless, the film, which garnered the director and France the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award was also named the National Society of Film Critics Best Film of 1978 over The Deer Hunter and Days of Heaven.

A light as a feather ode to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, with little regard to social mores or laws, Blier's film operates like a contemporary fairy tale as opposed to anything even remotely steeped in reality. Using everything from Solange's knitting to the way that her lovers gaze at her in her sleep and their taste in classical music as motifs that pay off later in unexpected ways, Blier's background as a playwright and novelist undeniably enriches the film as it continues.

Newly released to Blu-ray in a brilliant fortieth anniversary restoration, Handkerchiefs, which also features a memorable Cesar award-winning score by Georges Delerue, remains as uncompromisingly subversive as it is impossibly entertaining.

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