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Land of Milk and Honey

(Pays de Cocagne)
France 1974. Director: Pierre Étaix

In the aftermath of the social and political upheavals that rocked France in May 1968, comic actor-director Pierre Étaix set out with a documentary camera to get the lay of the land, and discovered the French ... on vacation! Étaix’s fifth feature-length work, distilled from more than 20 hours of vérité footage, is a bitingly funny, acutely observed “burlesque documentary” that plays with asynchronous sound as it captures holidaying citizens opining about music, marriage, the moon landing, advertising, eroticism, and other subjects. The surprisingly jaded tone, from an artist noted for his delightful comedy, may have reflected Étaix’s own disappointment at France’s failure to achieve positive change. French critics, by and large, were not amused: affronted by Étaix’s portrait of the country, they savaged Land of Milk and Honey. Combined with the film’s complete failure at the box office, it effectively ended Étaix’s feature-filmmaking career. Colour, 35mm, in French with English subtitles. 74 mins.