As Long as You're Healthy
An original version of the film, created in Étaix's usual collaboration with screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere, was well-received, winning the 1966 Silver Mermaid prize at Italy's Incontro Internazionale del Cinema di Sorrento and the Silver Seashell award at the Sebastian International Film Festival. But four years later Étaix reworked the film, eliminating one segment and adding a new one, the introductory episode "Insomnia." A crisply restored 1971 "Director's Cut," showing off the imaginative cinematography of Jean Boffety, is composed of four parts separated by title cards as follows.
Insomnia: In this dreamlike sequence, Étaix plays a sleepless husband who takes a sedative and begins reading a book about vampires, only to visualize himself as the head bloodsucker. His wife, asleep in bed beside him, eventually stirs to join the action. Screenwriter Carriere, a lifelong horror fan who wrote several Frankenstein-inspired novels, also appears in Insomnia as an elderly victim. Surreal touches include upside-down images when Étaix holds the book the wrong way, a briefly blacked-out screen as he nods off and repetition of scenes as he goes back to re-read passages.
The Cinema: A moviegoer (Étaix) has problems finding a seat in a crowded theater showing a Western film. Trying desperately to settle in, he's bothered by an intrusive usher, restless patrons, and pillars and railings that obscure his view.
As Long as You're Healthy: The title episode casts Étaix as a psychiatrist who is more stressed out than his patients. Sight gags abound, especially in a very funny sequence when a pharmacist mistakenly devours a plate of food spiked with the shrink's medications.
We're No Longer in the Woods: Some consider this to be the most enjoyable of the four episodes. Étaix plays a hunter who encounters a bickering couple on a picnic and a farmer erecting a wire fence on his land. The group gets on each other's nerves, and tensions escalate in a series of tit-for-tat routines worthy of Laurel and Hardy. The action climaxes with a sequence in which the hunter shoots a dangling wire off an electricity pole and inadvertently creates an electric fence that fries the poor farmer!
Born in Roanne, France, in 1928, Étaix moved to Paris in 1954 and worked as an illustrator and cabaret performer. After serving as assistant director to filmmaker Jacques Tati on his classic Mon Oncle (1958), Étaix made his first short films in 1961 including Happy Anniversary (Heureux Anniversaire), for which he won an Oscar® for Best Short Subject. He continued making films throughout the 1960s, earning the title "the French Buster Keaton" because of the warmth, elegance and inventiveness of his comedy. Étaix, who had performed as a circus clown, resumed that career in 1971 and has since written several plays and books, including volumes on filmmaking and clowning. He was married to the Algerian-born clown and actress Annie Fratellini until her death in 1997. Although his films went unseen for decades because of legal complications, Étaix has now been rediscovered and embraced by the international film community.
by Roger Fristoe