Going Places (1974) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

The marketing wizards came up with a strange English title for this movie. Their problem was that the French title, Les Valseuses, doesn't really work in English at all. It is a French slang expression for testicles, and it would work beautifully in all senses in Spanish as "Cojones". Most Texans and Californians and Floridians would understand that word perfectly, but I'm not sure to what extent the expression "cojones" was universally understood in America in 1974. "Balls" doesn't really work, because it sounds like a movie about sporting goods, and "Nuts" sounds like a movie about a mental asylum.

So this film about two guys going nowhere at all in life, but always going places in a physical sense, became "Going Places".

This is possibly the best film about the aftermath of the hippie generation, a mini-lesson in history. About 1969 or so, you would not see uneducated blue collar thugs with long hair. Long hair was a statement of your solidarity with the university generation and its causes - against war and racism, for sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll. The long hair went with the peace sign, brother. In fact, blue collar thugs were anti-marijuana, often pro-war, and beat up longhairs whenever they got the opportunity.

In the subsequent years, the cachet attached by the press to the university protest movement filtered out into society in general. The media glamorized the protest generation, and plenty of others joined in the "look" of the movement because they liked the sex and rock 'n roll, even if they didn't share the ideals. About at the same time when this movie takes place, blue collar guys started abandoning their buzz cuts and greasy pompadours and getting into the whole pony tail thing. By this time, the war was pretty much over, Nixon was running away with his tail between his legs, and the university protest generation was starting to worry about stock options. In essence, the student protestors abandoned the protests as well as the look, and moved on. The blue collar guys took over the long hair and the marijuana as well as the rebellion.

Problem was this  - what were they rebelling against? They didn't share those pacifistic hippie ideals of brotherhood. Well, if you asked them what they were rebelling against, they might have said, "what've you got?" They were the mid-70's version of the wild ones or the rebel without a cause. They just thought life sucked. It was a dead-end for them. When they got out of high school, they could look forward to a lifetime in a factory or something, and the American Dream avoided their neighborhoods.

It wasn't any different in France, which leads us back into Going Places. The two leading characters are working-class yahoos with no urban polish. Another character in the film calls them a couple of hicks, and it suits them well. They don't have some sanctimonious counter-cultural cachet or high minded political ideals. They are stiffs. Although only 23 and 25, their life is already headed on the downhill slope. They have no hope for a bright future, and they are outsiders in an otherwise homogeneous middle-class world. They support themselves with petty crime, and they amuse themselves with mischief, like little children. They go up to an ugly old lady, pinch her bottom, and tell her she is their dream girl. They offer money to a nursing mother for a suck on her breasts. They take turns trying unsuccessfully to give a first orgasm to a frigid young woman. They exchange insults with store security guards.

And they have their serious moments as well, though those often derive from their scams. At one point the boys decide that the perfect woman is one who has been in prison for a long time, because such a woman would be longing for sex. So they hang out outside a woman's prison on release day, hoping to pick up a sexually frustrated ex-con. Of course, their plan backfires, and they end up in an emotionally complex situation. They end up with a partially-crazed menopausal old gal, and in a way they both come to love her deeply. She has been released from prison with ten dollars. Our boys' hearts open to her. They give her a good meal, new clothes, an elegant hotel room, and plenty of fucking, only to discover in the morning that she has committed suicide by shooting herself in the vagina.

(French movies are never JUST comedies, after all)

After the suicide, out of a sense of love and guilt, they decide that they must take responsibility for the woman's son, who is also in prison. So when sonny gets out, they meet him and adopt him into their communal lifestyle, even though he seems to be a feckless idiot. Immediately, this provides the usual humorous comeuppance for the boys, because the incompetent and sexually inexperienced dumbbell immediately brings their frigid girlfriend to a explosive and lingering climax on his first try, despite their months of failure and their belief that they "know all the tricks".

Sonny-boy is the one thing the two thugs ever took responsibility for, and it proves to be a big mistake. The clod eventually kills someone and therefore turns them all into hunted criminals, which reconfirms our boys' innate belief that irresponsibility is the correct way to go.


see Tuna's Thoughts

I have always loved and admired this film, which was the first European movie I can remember to show real people living real lives in real places. No phony-baloney aristocrats hanging out at Spas, nor fairy-tale princesses, nor slickly amorous Casanovas. No country villas, nor Parisian shopping districts, not exclusive restaurants and clubs. The film avoided all the clichés about European life. These boys (Patrick Deweare and Gerard Depardieu) inhabited a different France from the one we pictured. They walked along deserted seacoasts peppered with impoverished coastal towns in the off-season. They drove through lifeless villages and past failing farms. They walked through urban neighborhoods filled with graffiti, in which the homes were fortified like bunkers, and the unadorned apartment buildings were square and indistinguishable. They ate at restaurants without tablecloths, and they exhibited noisy and messy table manners. When the bigger guy couldn't find any women, he fucked his friend.

A lot of the humor is probably lost in the translation from the French. I watched the DVD with both dubbing and subtitles, and they were rarely in agreement on a proper translation, which is probably a bad sign. But even under those circumstances, I still think this film is funny, and touching, and quite real.

There are some continuity problems in the narrative, as if important scenes had been cut, or details had simply been forgotten. The most obvious is that the nursing mother leaves her baby behind when she changes train cars, then forgets her baby completely when she gets off the train! The other really strange cut occurs when they are penniless and hitchhiking one moment, then driving an antique car instantly, with no explanation. But those are minor irritations that shouldn't have a significant impact on your overall enjoyment.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.66:1

  • no meaningful features, but it is possible to watch it with English subtitles and/or with English dubbing


Going Places (1974) was the film that established Gérard Depardieu as an international star. Depardieu and Patrick Dewaere are pseudo-hippies and petty thugs, who mug old ladies, steal cars, and anything else they can think of for money. The rest of the time, they are running from the police, their victims, etc, or having sex. Miou-Miou plays a frigid woman who ends up being their constant companion. She shows pretty much everything in several scenes. The two run into Brigitte Fossey, a nursing mother on a train. She is traveling to meet her boyfriend for the weekend. They pay her to allow them to play with her breasts. By the time she arrives, she is more than ready for her boyfriend. A 19 year old Isabelle Huppert has a short scene near the end of the film. She is picnicking with her parents when our trio steals their car. She takes the thief's side, and leaves with them. She ends up losing her virginity with them.

There are several references to a nipple exposure from Huppert, but I did not find it in the wide screen version. It is possible that there was one in a 4/3 aspect ratio version. There is a distant shot of her bush (image 1).

 This has the necessary ingredients to be my kind of film. Lots of nudity from known women, two anti-establishment heroes who get by on a lot of luck, and decent photography and locations. I consider it a B.

The Critics Vote

  • Maltin 3/4

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDB readers say 7.4/10
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B-. I don't normally like rambling, unresolved, picaresque movies, but I like this one.

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