Happy New Year (1973)

happy new year

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: A robbery with romance.

Stylish, moody, charming, serene, glossy, and evocative are just a few of the words that come to mind when you view this film and that’s just after the first five minutes. This is truly a French picture. It has all the ingredients that lovers of that cinema enjoy. Unlike American films, French films take their time in telling their story and everything is leisurely paced. The viewer is actually allowed to soak in the visual experience without being told what to think. Director Claude Lelouch is a master at work. He wisely realizes that film viewing is a very personal experience. What the viewer will take from that experience is unique only to them. Thus you have a picture that stays rather wide open in regards to structure. The camera takes many wide shots, thus allowing the individual viewer to focus on whatever it is that intrigues them personally. The story, while still being focused, stays elusive and subtle throughout.

To say the plot is about a planned jewelry store heist is misleading since this only takes up a part of the movie. There is also a running mix of character study, romance, comedy, satire, and even drama. Some will enjoy the amusing banter and love-hate relationship of the two male leads. Others will like the blossoming romance between one of the crooks and a beautiful antique shop owner. Still others will like the wide array of conversational topics some of which include: unique observations on marriage, hairstyles, churchgoers, psychology, men’s definition of women, and women’s definition of men. There’s even a playful critique of an earlier Lelouch film A Man and a Woman.

Overall it’s perfectly made for the viewer with distinct tastes even though when you get right down to it, it really is just a piece of entertainment fluff made more intriguing because of its sophisticated approach. Like with its Wizard of Oz-like format where the beginning and end are in black and white while the middle is in color. Why do it this way? No reason, except, why not. Same with the long slow shots of actor Lino Ventura’s very lined and expressionless face, which manages to hold an unexplainable captivation.

The rather abrupt and elusive ending seems to be the film’s only real weak point and yet when taken into context with everything else, this too has its allure. An American version of this movie was made in 1987 under the same title and starring Peter Falk, but that version is far inferior to this one and not worth seeking out.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: April 13, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 30Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Claude Lelouch

Studio: Les Films 13

Available: DVD (Region 2)

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