(director/writer: Claude Sautet; screenwriters: from the novel “La Grande Marrade” by Claude Neron/Jean-Loup Dabadie; cinematographer: JeanBoffety; editor: Jacqueline Thiédot; music: Philippe Sarde; cast: Yves Montand (Vincent), Michel Piccoli (François), Serge Reggiani (Paul), Gérard Depardieu (Jean Lavallee), Marie Dubois (Lucie), Antonella Lualdi (Julia), Stephane Audran(Catherine), Umberto Orsini (Jacques), Ludmila Mikaël (Marie), Catherine Allégret (Colette), Nicolas Vogel (Clovis, bar owner), Betty Beckers (Myriam), Jacques Richard (Armand), Mohamed Galoul (Joe Catano), Henri Coutet (Henri), Jean Lagache (Becaru’s bookkeeper); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Raymond Danon/Roland Girard; Studio/Canal; 1974-France/Italy-in French with English subtitles)

“A compelling slice of life drama in Gallic humanism.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Claude Sautet (“Cesar & Rosalie”/”Mado”/”A Simple Story”) directs acompelling slice of life drama in Gallic humanism, that covers all kinds of personal woes for long-time pals. The film won the Jean Cocteau Prize in 1974. It’s based on the novel “La Grande Marrade” by Claude Neron and is written by Jean-Loup Dabadie, whose theme could be from the Beatle’s lyrics ‘that all it takes to get by is a little help from my friends.’ It ends with the three friends, after their adventures, seemingly nodding in agreement that ‘you never know the way life is.’

Sundays are reserved for the get together of three close Parisian middle-aged friends at the country house of struggling novelist writer Paul (Serge Reggiani) and his loyal wife Julia (Antonella Lualdi), where dinner is served and the families playfully frolic in the yard. The two other friends are, the separated for the last two years, machine-shop owner, Vincent (Yves Montand), and the successful doctor, Francois (Michel Piccoli), and his unfaithful wife Lucie (Marie Dubois) and their two children. The film mainly keys in on the money problems of Vincent, who is in danger of losing the business because of debt due to heavy mortgages to buy new machinery and who still loves Catherine (Stephane Audran), whom he evidently hurt greatly, as she’s now asking for a divorce and planning to leave the country. Meanwhile Vincent’s latest fling the twenty-something Marie (Ludmila Mikaël), dumps him to pursue younger suitors.

The others from the title are Vincent’s young protege Jean (Gérard Depardieu), a boxer and worker in the machine-shop, Vincent’s former mentor in the business Armand (Jacques Richard), Lucie’s most serious lover Jacques (Umberto Orsini) in her failing marriage, Vincent’s generous father-in-law (Henri Coutet) and Jean’s amiable pregnant girlfriend Colette (Catherine Allégret).

The storyline deals with the trios mid-life crisis and how they become emotionally dependent on each other to deal with the difficult period each faces. It has a keen insight into what the Parisian middle-class is all about, and the performances are all impeccable. Its problem is all the angst over the fear of loss might appear profound but it results in superficial solutions, that make the dramatics less compelling when you have time to think about it after being swayed by such great but diverting performances.

The funniest line was when one of the mommies at Paul’s house dinner looks at a child’s drawing and tells her that’s a nice looking boat and the kid replies that’s the schoolhouse.