New Discovery at Telluride - Pierre Etaix! UN-REAL!

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Toni Carey
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New Discovery at Telluride - Pierre Etaix! UN-REAL!

Unread post by Toni Carey » Sat Sep 03, 2011 10:12 pm

Hi All,

Nick and Toni here at the Telluride Film Festival.

We just had the most amazing frick'en day here as we waited in line for two hours in 10,000 feet above sea level just for the opportunity to see a tribute to a forgotten French comedian. His name is Pierre Etaix (they're pronouncing it "Ed-Tax"). Amazingly, we managed to get in and were treated to a 30 minute montage of some of the most jaw-droppingly clever and entertaining film gags done in the 1960s by a guy who looks like a cross between Buster Keaton and Max Linder. And the best part -- the guy's work IS a cross between Buster Keaton and Max Linder, combined, of course, with his unique genius (okay and maybe a little Federico Fellini thrown in for good measure.)

Don't want to copy too much from the Telluride brochure for fear of ticking them off but basically the story is that this guy was an artist and actor and even assistant director of Jacques Tati's "Mon Oncle. But when he took off on his own to make film, Tati turned his back on him. Ever gracious, Etaix continues to speak well of Tati in spite of this.

Anyway, apparently, just after he won an Oscar for best short subject in 1962 (for his short film "Happy Anniversary" which is really great!), he signed a contact he thought would protect his rights to his films but unfortunately it was just the opposite. His films have been unavailable for 40 years because of this and so, sadly, a really incredibly talented, hard-working, brilliant, genius has remained in the shadows in what should have been his most creative years. This is not to say that took it lying down. He and his wife, actress Annie Fratellini (who is SO Gorgeous) founded Ecole Nationale Du Cirque in 1974. His love of the circus is apparent in some of his films and one of the reasons he went into filmmaking, he said, was that neither the circus nor the theatre genres allowed him the complete expression of his vision. He said his work could only be visualized thru film. After you see some of his work, you'll probably agree with him.

After the 30 minute tribute, the man himself came out on stage. It was really something special! Paolo Cherchi Usai translated his French into English and conducted the Q&A. What was really heartwarming was that everyone in the audience "got" that this guy was something special and had created some really unique and magical films. And he was so self-effacing and humble about it.

It's no surprise that he is a friend of Jerry Lewis, another great comedian, and was gracious enough to share the story of how they met and formed their decades long friendship. (Apparently, he's also in Lewis' famously never-released film "The Day the Clown Cried"). Etaix also lamented that American audiences haven't given Jerry Lewis his due as the Master Comedian he is and asked for a round of applause for Jerry's genius. It was really sweet.

After the Q&A, we were treated to his first feature film, "The Suitor". It was about a sheltered astronomer who still lived with his folks but needed to get married. He goes into the world and observes mating rituals of the 1960's cocktail set and tries to emulate them with hilarious results.

Later in the day, we completely lucked out and got in to see another of his films. This one, "Yoyo" is the story of a bored millionaire who pines after a girl he met and fell in love with in the Circus in his youth. They meet later and the millionaire discovers he and the Circus girl had a son named Yoyo who goes on to become one of the most successful Clowns/TV stars in France. It's not a simple rags-to-riches story and it spans two generations in it's storytelling with Etaix playing both father and son. Watching the movie, you could tell just how many influences there were and yet how he wove them all together, along with his own brilliance into something completely different and haunting. This is magic, kids!

Yoyo was introduced by Leonard Maltin who looked around at the audience and, to paraphrase, basically said that this was an event like discovering Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd before anyone else did and that we were lucky and smart to be here. We couldn't agree with the luck part more ;)

One of other clips at the tribute showed a dream sequence from another of his films, this one in color, called "Un Grande Amour". It starts with a husband and wife in those "I Love Lucy" twin beds at nighttime. Suddenly, the husband's bed takes off on wheels and travels into a dreamworld where he meets other bed-driven dreamers of all shapes and sizes as the beds float and sometimes crash, and careen down desolate country roads. This was cinematic surrealism Bunuel would have been proud of. Incidentally, some of Etaix's work was done in collaboration with Jean Claude Carriere (writer of the Discreet Charm of the Bourgeois, among other things for Bunuel).

After seeing Yoyo, we were flabbergasted to think anyone could be so talented and have done so much amazing and difficult film work and have no one know about them (at least outside of France). Fortunately, however, due to a petition signed in part by luminaries like Woody Allen, David Lynch and Jean Luc Goddard, a restoration effort was undertaken and the legal quagmire that bad contract had created has been resolved.

Rumor has it that there may be a DVD release of his films. If so, you should seriously consider checking them out.
Better still if you can find them on film (of course). Pierre Etaix - a "new" discovery!

Best,
Nick and Toni
"Those who abandon their dreams will discourage yours." - anonymous

Jonathan
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Re: New Discovery at Telluride - Pierre Etaix! UN-REAL!

Unread post by Jonathan » Sun Sep 04, 2011 1:11 am

I don't think it's quite true that Etaix's films have been "unavailable for 40 years" or that he's unknown outside France. They were televised in the UK in the mid-1980s, for example.

There is indeed a collection available on DVD from France (released last year). I don't know if it has English subs but it wouldn't matter too much with these predominantly visual films. I can't find the same level of enthusiasm for them but perhaps it was my misfortune to come across his work shortly after Tati's, which I much prefer. I thought The Suitor and Yoyo were his best two features. Others, like Le Grand Amour, have brilliant gags but seemed to me more like short films stiched together (As Long As You're Healthy is indeed composed of separate episodes). Etaix is certainly worthy of rediscovery, and I'm glad it's happened within his lifetime!

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FrankFay
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Re: New Discovery at Telluride - Pierre Etaix! UN-REAL!

Unread post by FrankFay » Sun Sep 04, 2011 4:27 am

Several Etaix clips and at least one short are on YouTube
Eric Stott

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ymmv
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Re: New Discovery at Telluride - Pierre Etaix! UN-REAL!

Unread post by ymmv » Sun Sep 04, 2011 5:45 am

Toni Carey wrote:Rumor has it that there may be a DVD release of his films. If so, you should seriously consider checking them out.
Better still if you can find them on film (of course). Pierre Etaix - a "new" discovery!
http://criterioncast.com/2011/09/03/pie ... n-its-way/" target="_blank
Pierre Etaix Eclipse Box Set On Its Way
By Joshua Brunsting on September 3, 2011, 3:18 pm

Never let it be said that the guys over at The Criterion Collection are the most difficult to get information out of.

Joking aside, the always great Peter Becker, the man behind the big C, recently revealed to Anne Thompson at the 2011 Telluride Film Festival, that Criterion will be giving us a new Eclipse box set focusing one of comedies most underrated names.

With a recent turn in the soon-to-be-Criterion film Le Havre, Pierre Etaix has been put back into the spotlight, and Criterion will be releasing a box set focusing on the man’s long running career. Thompson rightly reports that while his films have been difficult to see, two shorts and five features have not only been “freed from rights problems,” but also restored, making this a box that appears to have been in the work for some time.

I’m not familiar with the actor’s work, but he’s a historic name, having worked with the likes of Nagisa Oshima and even Jacques Tati, having helped create the film that we would go on to know as Mon Oncle. No announcement has officially been made, but at this point, I’d be shocked if this one didn’t come along with Le Havre’s release sometime mid-late 2012. Maybe a bit of summer counter-programming?

Toni Carey
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Re: New Discovery at Telluride - Pierre Etaix! UN-REAL!

Unread post by Toni Carey » Sun Sep 04, 2011 9:53 pm

See Guys, this is why we don't usually post on Nitrateville! You guys are waaaaaay ahead of us!

Thanks for all the awesome additional info!
Best,
Toni & Nick
"Those who abandon their dreams will discourage yours." - anonymous

Richard Finegan
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Re: New Discovery at Telluride - Pierre Etaix! UN-REAL!

Unread post by Richard Finegan » Mon Sep 05, 2011 5:14 am

Toni Carey wrote:See Guys, this is why we don't usually post on Nitrateville! You guys are waaaaaay ahead of us!

Thanks for all the awesome additional info!
Best,
Toni & Nick
Hey Toni,
I loved reading your reviews. Stick around and post more often!

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Christopher Jacobs
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Re: New Discovery at Telluride - Pierre Etaix! UN-REAL!

Unread post by Christopher Jacobs » Tue Sep 06, 2011 12:52 am

I remember seeing THE SUITOR and YO YO on our college film society back in the 1970s or early 80s (and that was in North Dakota, of all places!). Interesting that the oh-so-trendy Telluride has finally discovered him, and it's great if Criterion will have a newly restored DVD set. Too many people wait to be told what films they should be watching instead of looking for obscure, underrated, and/or unknown titles and seeing what they are for themselves. There may be a lot of junk, but there are also some virtually unknown gems out there.

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Re: New Discovery at Telluride - Pierre Etaix! UN-REAL!

Unread post by Mike Gebert » Tue Sep 06, 2011 8:58 am

Sheesh, let's not get too cool for school here. I don't remember anything of Etaix's besides Happy Anniversary being available then, and I was programming 1980-1988. I knew his name, and had seen Happy Anniversary and his part in Fellini's The Clowns, but he's long been one of the blank spots on the map otherwise, a name and not much more, so if someone is bringing attention to him, while he's alive no less and in a state to appreciate it (like Buster Keaton, or Abel Gance and Luis Trenker earlier in "trendy" Telluride's history), that seems a pretty great thing, the kind of thing we're supposed to like to see happen, and thanks to Toni and Nick for reporting on it.

(P.S. If you saw something in the 70s or 80s, hate to break it to you but... that is long enough ago for it to be rediscovered!)
“I'm in favor of plagiarism. If we are to create a new Renaissance, the government should encourage plagiarism. When convinced that someone is a true plagiarist, we should immediately award them the Legion of Honor.” —Jean Renoir

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Christopher Jacobs
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Re: New Discovery at Telluride - Pierre Etaix! UN-REAL!

Unread post by Christopher Jacobs » Wed Sep 07, 2011 1:10 am

Mike Gebert wrote:(P.S. If you saw something in the 70s or 80s, hate to break it to you but... that is long enough ago for it to be rediscovered!)
It's true that for anybody who's not a regular TCM fan or diehard cinephile, anything before 1990 (before the vast majority of my film students were even born) is ancient history and Greek to them, and just as appealing (although I like ancient history and ancient Greek almost as much as older movies, although anything after the fifth or sixth century AD is a bit too recent for my taste).

Back to the topic, I found Etaix interesting and very entertaining, but not quite up to Jacques Tati, and both owed a great deal to Buster Keaton. I hope both get some renewed recognition out of the Telluride exposure, which tends to make at least a few Hollywood execs realize there's more to movies than last week's hit and next week's release. But Criterion and Eureka have introduced me to more interesting films I'd never previously heard of than Telluride. A Criterion release is likely to get more widespread reviews than Telluride screenings, not to mention Public Library orders that inspire random check-outs.

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Re: New Discovery at Telluride - Pierre Etaix! UN-REAL!

Unread post by gjohnson » Wed Sep 07, 2011 12:12 pm

Christopher Jacobs wrote: Back to the topic, I found Etaix interesting and very entertaining, but not quite up to Jacques Tati, and both owed a great deal to Buster Keaton.
More along the lines of Max Linder. Keaton was out of their range.

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Re: New Discovery at Telluride - Pierre Etaix! UN-REAL!

Unread post by FrankFay » Wed Sep 07, 2011 12:43 pm

gjohnson wrote:
Christopher Jacobs wrote: Back to the topic, I found Etaix interesting and very entertaining, but not quite up to Jacques Tati, and both owed a great deal to Buster Keaton.
More along the lines of Max Linder. Keaton was out of their range.
Tati must have been aware of Keaton. The sequence where M. Hulot steps off a ladder and sweeps through the house- the panning camera capturing the reactions in his wake- to me that's pure Keaton.
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Re: New Discovery at Telluride - Pierre Etaix! UN-REAL!

Unread post by murnaumagic » Thu Sep 08, 2011 2:04 pm

Hi Folks,
I happen to own what seems to be the last 35mm-print of Pierre Ètaix` "Tant qu'on a la santé" (English title "As Long As You Are Healthy / German title: "Meine Nerven, Deine Nerven"). However, there ishardly any dialogue in the film at all.
I am not sure if Criterion would be interested since they only publish English or original versions and anyway their project is likelike in its final stages.
But if a festival would like to pay hommage to Pierre Ètaix they might be interested in this information.

Cheers from Berlin (Germany)
Thomas

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