Bertrand Blier's iconoclastic 1974 "Going Places" (at the Monica 4-Plex) is as rewarding for those who enjoyed it the first time around as it should be for those who have never had a chance to see it. Blier has gone on to a notable and distinctive career, but as worthy (and quirky) as his subsequent films have been, none have packed the punch of his debut film, which he based on his own novel.
(The slight cuts made in "Going Places" to ensure an R rating upon its original release have been restored. A menage a trois sex scene had been toned down; more important, the specific meaning of Jeanne Moreau's final scene is now clearer. In any event, "Going Places," which is now unrated, was raw and racy the first time around and still is.)
The road/buddy movie was scarcely new 16 years ago, but Blier's strategies in the telling of his sexual odyssey remain fresh, outrageous and inspired. There's no sentimentalizing Gerard Depardieu's Jean-Claude and Patrick Dewaere's Pierrot, a couple of reckless, aimless young men on parole for knocking over a five-and-dime who seem headed for bigger trouble. We in fact meet them as they terrorize an older woman who has every reason to fear that she is about to become a rape victim.
They are thieves and not nice guys, yet they draw us into their lives for a number of reasons. First, because while they may be punks, Depardieu and Dewaere are charismatic, attractive figures. Jean-Claude is the precursor of all the earthy, passionate men Depardieu has brought to life on the screen. What's more, Blier is interested more in Jean-Claude and Pierrot as sexual chauvinists than as petty criminals, and as they learn to be more considerate lovers they become more likable. Above all, they embody the sure-fire appeal of all movie anti-heroes, free spirits who live entirely for the moment and at all times follow their impulse.
It's the inspired quality of their encounters that give them--and the picture--increasing and unexpected dimension. There's a complex and disturbing sequence in a train with a young woman (Brigitte Fossey) nursing her baby. And when Jean-Claude sees a care-worn but quietly dignified and self-possessed woman (Jeanne Moreau, who is superb) emerging from prison after serving a 10-year sentence, he is transfixed.
Pierrot thinks his pal is crazy to be smitten by an older woman, but she awakens the tender side of him as well. However, the kindness she inspires in them has consequences as shocking to them as to us. For the moment, the film grows serious and thought-provoking indeed, but an encounter with this same woman's teen-age son (Jacques Chailieux) restores its comic balance.
"Going Places" (Times-rated Mature for much nudity, considerable sex, strong language and adult themes), which has a jaunty Stephane Grappelli score, launched not only Blier but also Depardieu, Dewaere, Miou-Miou (as a beauty parlor shampoo girl who winds up joining the guys on their spree) and Isabelle Huppert (as a 16-year-old eager to make the trio a quartet). Dewaere, who reportedly developed a drug problem, seemed to have every bit as bright a future as his colleagues, but in 1982 he committed suicide at the age of 35.