May Fools

Louis Malle is generally at his worst when he ignores the parochial aspects of his worldview and assumes that he can do anythingsuch as, in this 1989 feature, make a movie that evokes Jean Renoir and La Regle du Jeu. An elderly woman (Paulette Dubost, who played the heroine’s maid in the Renoir film) living in the Gers region of France with her 60-year-old son (Michel Piccoli) dies unexpectedly in May 1968, when widespread strikes have brought France to the brink of revolution, and her large and varied family gathers to squabble over her possessions and bury her. Milking this situation for boulevard farce, black comedy, and facile jeersthe very opposite of Renoir’s generosity, humanity, and richnessMalle is too busy elbowing the spectator in the ribs to capture anything more than the most superficial sense of the characters, all of whom we’re glibly invited to feel superior to. With Miou-Miou and Michel Duchaussoy. In French with subtitles. 108 min. (JR)

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