Bertrand Blier‘s Going Places (’74) is one of the most curiously seductive films ever made about loutish, anarchic, groin-driven swagger. Gerard Depardieu and the late Patrick Dewaere are a pair of easygoing counter-culture brutes who fall into a series of sloppy impulsive adventures, and yet never act in what you’d call an especially harsh or cruel manner. They’re dopey animals in a sense, and in another a couple of social adventurers looking to see what they can get away with.
Let’s steal this or fuck that…anything we want. We’re young and brash and can always get it up, etc. What else matters? We’re bulletproof. What does her underwear smell like? Aaahh…she’s very young!
They steal scooters or cars or food or money, and are constantly on the hunt for poon. They’re careless cads and improvisational jerkoffs, kicking around to kick around and see where the day takes them. And yet they’re boyishly innocent and nowhere near smart or mean or ambitious enough to become serious criminals. They’re just playing it by ear. They love sex and chasing after women, but they don’t have the first clue what women are really about or what they want. And, being boobs, everything these guys get into either backfires or turns out unexpectedly or delivers some kind of fake-out surprise.
The film itself is like Depardieu and Dewaere, ambling along without seeming to have any particular plan, and in so doing it gradually charms you into taking their side or least not wanting to see them get caught. It gives you an idea of what a hooligan high can feel like, to break the law and laugh and not give a damn. It’s quite a trick. I don’t think any American film about small-time bad guys has ever managed the same kind of mood or chemistry.
“I have never seen Bertrand Blier’s raucous, lyrical road comedy Going Places without noticing at least one audience member stalking out in disgust,” Taylor writes. “In a way that’s an honest reaction. Mr. Blier means to rough you up, just as his two loutish heroes rough up the people they encounter. It’s not bullying, more like someone telling you not to worry if you get grease on your pressed shirt or dirt under your nails. Mr. Blier means to make us feel more alive, more in touch with simple, sensual, irresponsible pleasure.
“Gerard Depardieu’s Jean-Claude and Patrick Dewaere’s Pierrot are dirty enough for Henry Miller, but they also could be offspring of D. H. Lawrence‘s happy idiot. In their dumb, brutish way they revere the familiar mystery of sex and are in awe of nature.
“Working from his novel, Mr. Blier follows the two buddies as they steal and fight and rut their way across France. Mr. Depardieu and Dewaere are a Neanderthal comedy team with hot pants and rocks in their heads.
“Mr. Blier understands that the self-justification in the pair’s anti-establishment talk is just a ruse to see how much they can get away with. But he also challenges the mechanized alienation of the world that shuns them, nowhere more so than in Jeanne Moreau‘s devastating cameo as a woman just released from prison who tells the men how the cold, unnatural experience of being incarcerated stopped her menstrual cycle. It’s as if this society has developed the power of freezing out nature.
“What the movie’s detractors missed is that everything Jean-Claude and Pierrot do backfires on them, right up until the sleek black joke of the final shot. When they come on like studs, determined to give the zonked beautician (Miou-Miou) they’ve picked up the time of her life in the sack, she lies there compliant and bored as they work overtime showing off.
“Going Places harks back to the plein-air tradition of ’30s French films, like Jean Renoir‘s Day in the Country, and farther, to Renoir’s father, Auguste. Watching the film is like seeing what Renoir pere’s rosy-cheeked picnickers got up to after the country dances and the food: the grease on their cheeks, the grass stains on their knees.”