Bertrand Blier’s Going Places—recently re-issued on DVD and Blu-Ray—is perhaps as brazen as it must have been upon release in 1974. The film, based on the writer/director’s novel—whose title translates as “The Testicles”—traces the movement of two horny and ballsy friends, Jean-Claude (Gérard Depardieu) and Pierrot (the late, great Patrick Dewaere).
The opening scene features Pierrot pushing Jean-Claude in a shopping cart as they chase a woman. The thugs eventually end up being chased after groping and robbing her. The sequence sets the step-and-repeat tone of the film, in which these two thieves who steal cars and cash, want little more than to have sex with the nearest female, whether she’s willing or not.
Blier’s characters treat women badly throughout Going Places, but their reprehensible behavior is indicative of their masculinity in crisis. The macho posturing of Jean-Claude and Pierrot is continuously punctured in every encounter; hence the film’s comedy. Blier is poking fun at these men who think they are entitled, only to discover time and again, they are not.
Their most frustrating situation is that neither pal can get Marie-Ange (Miou-Miou), a shampoo girl they use, abuse, and eventually befriend, to achieve orgasm. A scene of Jean-Claude and Pierrot alternately taking turns having sex with the about-to-come Marie-Ange in the back seat of a moving vehicle is oddly, one of the funniest moments of this candid, and often audacious film. Watching the men “handle” Marie-Ange, who is more often their whore, and only sometimes motherly, is indicative of the film’s gender politics.
Blier is hardly endorsing the guys’ despicable behavior. The (anti)heroes of Going Places are sensualists—they exude a menacing sexuality and often rely on the smell of a woman’s panties (or actual privates) to fantasize about or threaten the women they hope to bed. They use taste and touch as means of communication, most notable in an erotic encounter aboard a train involving a soldier’s nursing wife (Brigitte Fossey). Jean-Claude prompts the woman to let Pierrot—who is having trouble getting aroused, due in part to being shot in the testicles—suck her breast, providing everyone with a fraction of sexual satisfaction.
But most of the sex in Going Places—even the discrete homoerotic moment between the friends—leaves a strange aftertaste. A lengthy, engaging episode in which Jean-Claude insists on picking up Jeanne (Jeanne Moreau), a woman fresh out of prison, is particularly memorable. This mysterious older woman intrigues him, but Jeanne resists his charms until she finally lets down her guard and trusts him. While Jeanne makes one of the most memorable exits in cinema, the encounter changes the men and ultimately, the focus of the film.
Suddenly, Going Places becomes more serious than it initially was in its freewheeling first half. Even with Stéphane Grappelli’s jaunty score, Blier shifts the mood and gives his lead characters a come-uppance that infects—and affects—their bad behavior.
Whether the characters are redeemed by the film’s open ending is open to debate. But Going Places still prompts conversation and maintains its power almost 40 years later. Depardieu and Dewaere give remarkable, committed performances, and both Miou-Miou and Jeanne Moreau provide indelible support. And look for a young Isabelle Huppert in a memorable role in the last reel.
Gary M. Kramer is the author of Independent Queer Cinema: Reviews and Interviews.