If you’ve never heard of Pierre Étaix, blame lawyers. Protracted legal wranglings kept the French comedy mastermind’s films unreleased and unseen for decades. They’re now back in circulation, thanks to a petition signed by such luminaries as Woody Allen, Jean-Luc Godard and David Lynch, and cinephiles are sure to find them worth the wait.
A collaborator of Jacques Tati and Luis Buñuel who went on to found a clown college, the actor/director created some of France’s most beloved comedies. His films feature precise, deadpan humor that recalls Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. They’re stylish and poignant, filled with absurdist sight gags and exquisitely composed shots.
The Belcourt’s retrospective, running Sunday through March 21, gathers the cream of his ’60s crop: The Suitor is the story of a hapless nebbish who’s ordered by his parents to find a wife; in Yoyo, a bored 1920s millionaire joins the circus after losing it all in the stock market crash. The montage we've posted above may be enough to make you a fan.
And for more background, see this week's Scene "People Issue" profile of Janus Films staffer Sarah Finklea, who's made the Étaix retrospective a personal cause. She'll discuss his career after Sunday's 2:30 p.m. show of Yoyo.