Last night my mother and I attended the opening night of the Pierre Étaix retrospective at the Film Forum. First we saw the short film Heureux Anniversaire (1962), which won the 1963 Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Live Action Subjects and the 1964 BAFTA Award for Best Short Film. Afterward, M. Étaix – who is currently experiencing his very first trip to NYC – was introduced to briefly thank us for being in the audience and to thank the Film Forum for its excellent projection and film quality (he spoke too soon; a couple of times throughout the film there were technical issues with changing the reels and the theater lights flickering on and off, not to mention horrible microphone feedback problems during the Q&A). But the feature film, the Palme d’Or-nominated Le Grand Amour (1969), was indeed just that: a grand film full of delightfully comedic – and sometimes poignant – remarks about the state of married life.
M. Étaix generously answered many questions in the Q&A, even after the microphone fiasco that made the audience members have to shout or relay what they said to an usher who would in turn shout back to M. Étaix and the Film Forum’s French translator. When asked who his favorite contemporary directors were/are, M. Étaix first said Clint Eastwood, which of course got a big laugh. He then named William Friedkin and Stanley Kubrick, which made sense given Étaix’s earlier discussion of his appreciation of horror films and how closely comedy and suspense are linked. (He also said he was a fan of Hitchcock.)
I took the above photo of the Film Forum after leaving the event, which I think was approximately 9:45 pm. I loved the glow of the sign, which looked more wondrously magical than I had ever seen it before. It was obvious to me that Pierre Étaix’s “grand amour” – for comedy, filmmaking and his co-star/wife at the time, Annie Fratellini – is a love that everyone in the audience shared last night. We all basked in the glow of the film and the glow of the Film Forum.