Préparez Vos Mouchoirs Review
You can turn up some rum old things when readying oneself for a review. Do an image search for Préparez Vos Mouchoirs - Get Out Your Handkerchiefs when translated into English - and instead of the cover of this DVD, or others, you will be greeted by a wide selection of photographs of young French ladies whose hands are fully occupied with tending to the needs of their gentlemen, all of whom appear to be on the cusp of doing something rather messy. It's quite the turn up for this viewer, who had always assumed that the reason for getting those handkerchiefs out was for the wiping up of tears, not any other secretion.
However, Bertrand Blier's comedy finds the director as ready as any to look at the complications of sexuality within a love affair, opening with Raoul (Gerard Depardieu) and Solange (Carole Laure) eating lunch in a busy little cafe. Neither of them are enjoying it. Solange eats as though not only is each chew was causing her discomfort but that the eating of her meal is giving her no pleasure. Raoul is put off his own meal as his wife despondently eats hers. Wholly devoted to Solange, Raoul wants for nothing more than to put the smile back on Solange's face and believing that their marriage has left her unhappy, tells her that she ought to take a lover, suggesting a nearby diner, Stephane (Patrick Dewaere), who has been surreptitiously looking at Solange over the top of his newspaper. Days later, Raoul waits in a nearby cafe drinking a glass of wine while Stephane and Solange lie in bed, he still wearing his glasses and she knitting him a pullover. And then she faints. Raoul suggests some time in the country running a holiday camp for teenage boys, and for the first time in many years, Solange finds herself happy.
For reasons that will become clear, Préparez Vos Mouchoirs has always found its story overshadowed by later scenes of sexual exploration but the first half of the film finds the director back on somewhat similar ground to his earlier Les Valseuses, with Depardieu and Dewaere once more engaged in a menage a trois, this time with Carole Laure instead of Miou-Miou. The difference this time is that Depardieu and Dewaere are less in need of one another. In Les Valseuses they were such a part of one another that Depardieu's Jean-Claude effectively raped his friend Pierrot when they were without the company of a young woman but Préparez Vos Mouchoirs finds them more in the manner of friends who have arrived at a problem, being the happiness of Solange.
Raoul and Stephane treat the problem of Solange like a good many men would, somewhere between tinkering with Solange as they would a faulty lawnmower or proposing ever more outlandish ideas to cure her ills. Eventually, the three men settle into a life that would be domestically content were it not for Solange's happiness. Raoul and Stephane eat together while Solange rests in bed while at night, neither one can remember who slept with her the night before. As tired of them as she apparently is of life, Solange asks if she cannot have a night in bed alone. The ease with which Raoul and Stephane take to this suggests that they are perfectly happy in one another's company as they are with Solange. Indeed, it might be that she actually gets in the way.
Like the rabble of murderers, policemen and passers-by who bumbled along in a gang towards the conclusion of Buffet Froid, so too does Préparez Vos Mouchoirs gather various waifs and strays in a bid to make Solange happy. Stephane is only the first but they are later joined by Raoul's neighbour (Michel Serrault) who joins Raoul and Stephane at the dinner table but is equally unable to satisfy Solange. Still later, Stephane, who teaches at a summer camp, suggests that the fresh air might do them good and so, without the neighbour, Stephane, Raoul and Solange leave the city. And Solange meets Christian (Riton Liebman).
It is this relationship with Christian that has proved to be a problem with the censors. Blier's later Un, Deux, Trois Soleil would later find itself cut by the BBFC under the laws regarding child protection but so too, based on what is said on the Melon Farmers website, is Préparez Vos Mouchoirs. Originally released as an X and then later released as an 18-rated video with 5s of cuts, the BBFC state that this DVD version of the film has been passed without cuts but, as is more than likely, Arrow Films probably submitted the edited version of the film from their earlier video release. Surprisingly, though, the BBFC have now rated this a 15 with, as is probably the case, with cuts. The issue with Préparez Vos Mouchoirs is in Christian joining Solange in her bed. After waiting for Solange to fall asleep, Christian peeks underneath her nightdress but eventually leaves the bed to arrange for Solange to move into a better position. Waking, Solange eventually removes her nightdress to allow Christian to look at her naked. The scene ends before they touch - at least the edited version does - but with Solange falling pregnant later in the film, she and Christian clearly have a sexual relationship. With Un, Deux, Trois Soleil, the problem came with a young boy touching Anouk Grinberg's breasts and one suspects that the same issue was presented to the BBFC with Préparez Vos Mouchoirs, the thirteen-year-old Christian (acted by the fourteen-year-old Liebman) reaching out to touch Solange.
If Préparez Vos Mouchoirs has anything to say, it is that Solange's sexual desires can only be met when one takes the time to stimulate her mind as much as her body. In the course of the adventure, Raoul meets a waitress who he could fall for. She simply offers him the chance to come to bed and to make love without any conversation not related to sex. As for Solange, the mistake that Raoul and Stephane make is to simply climb on top of Solange and make do. That's not to say they don't try. In an almost perfect piece of acting complete with a very slight touch to push his spectacles up his nose, Dewaere's Stephane shows Solange around his apartment hoping to impress her with his collection of classical music and his books, all of them arranged alphabetically. His means to bed Solange begins with asking her to give him a number from the spine of a book, from which he can tell her the title and author. She is less than impressed and very soon she looks as bored with Stephane as she is with Raoul. Failing to understand why Solange has not fallen for him, Stephane asks, "Is it possible she's just dumb?"
With Christian, Solange has found someone she can talk to, who brings out her maternal feelings and who loves her. The difficulty in their relationship is that Christian is, in spite of his intelligence, only a young boy. He is picked on by the other kids, is covered in Petit Suisse in a food fight and must eventually return home to his parents. Other than Solange, he has an unhappy time of it.
There are many touching moments in Préparez Vos Mouchoirs, not least the friendship between Raoul and Stephane - a far more believable one than in Les Valseuses - and Christian suddenly finding himself accepted at a boarding school so long as he tells all about having sex. "What's it like inside? Is it hairy?", asks one of the boarders in a wholly believable moment of curiosity from the inexperienced. Finding love, Christian also finds happiness and so too does Solange. And in their strolling down the street together, so do Raoul and Stephane. Blier hasn't always stuck such a note of lovestruck optimism but he does so here, ending his film quietly and without fuss.
What Blier films that have been released on DVD have had a fairly difficult time of it. Fortunately, Blier's skill in shooting his films have left them largely untroubled by the poor handling they've received on DVD. Until now, that is. An earlier film than either Trop Belle Pour Toi or Merci, La Vie, Préparez Vos Mouchoirs is stuck with a poor, grainy picture, almost completely lacking in detail, particularly in scenes that Blier shoots at a distance, and with colours that fall some way short of natural. Even in close up, the DVD has trouble with the detail in Depardieu's face. Dewaere's beard becomes a brown mush stuck to the bottom of his face while the horrible grey jumpers knitted by Solange look more like a great big mark on the print than an item of clothing. Add to this numerous scratches and Préparez Vos Mouchoirs is the least impressive of the Blier releases on UK DVD to date.
The DD2.0 audio track isn't bad but isn't particularly good either. Dialogue is clear and always audible and though the background and ambient sounds are not very audible, it may be that there isn't very much of it. There is a noticeable amount of background noise but given the condition of the print, that isn't unexpected. Subtitles are optional rather than fixed and look to be fairly accurate throughout. Not that I can speak French - something of a problem when wanting Blier films on DVD - but the sentences do flow well with a certain Blier structure to them.
There are no extras on this DVD.
Blier continues to be released on bare-bones DVDs on this side of the Channel but without any other releases, beggars have little choice. Searching for Bertrand Blier and Sous-titres: Anglais doesn't turn up very much. While most of Blier's films are available in France - Mediadis and Amazon.fr have many of them for sale still - few of them feature English subtitles but for those imported from the UK such as this one and the releases of Trop Belle Pour Toi, Buffet Froid and Merci, La Vie. Still, as one who would buy them regardless, I'm not really complaining. Having this release is much, much better than not having it at all and with so much of Blier's films unavailable, I'd more than settle for Arrow films releasing the rest of them.