Cannes Classics 2020: Bertrand Blier’s ‘Get Out Your Handkerchiefs’ is anchored by a woman who isn’t easy to read

Posted on August 9, 2020

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Bertrand Blier might be another of those lionised male artistes whose art is ‘problematic’… I am reminded of Márquez’s ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’, where a woman wants to ‘die of love’ in her rapist’s arms

Bertrand Blier knows luck had a part to play in fetching him the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film in 1978, for Get Out Your Handkerchiefs. Four decades later, he told Variety, “[Ingmar] Bergman made a masterpiece that year, Autumn Sonata. In any normal situation he should have won! He won at the Golden Globes, for instance. It made perfect sense; he was the best director in the world.” So what happened? Eventually, Blier got an explanation. “Bergman had all kinds of tax issues in Sweden, and he was not happy about it… he pulled his film from the Oscars to punish Sweden.”

Normally, you might call this a tragedy, given that Autumn Sonata was Bergman’s last film made for theatrical exhibition. (His subsequent work was produced for television, even if some of it ended up being screened in cinema halls.) But then, it’s hard to begrudge Get Out Your Handkerchiefs its Oscar win. It’s so unique, so unclassifiable, so shocking in its treatment of relationships and yet so oddly, endearingly relatable (if you believe that attraction cannot really be “explained”). It’s among the lightest “heavy movies” I’ve seen, in the sense that rarely do films treat such ten-ton subjects with such disarming casualness.

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