Picnic on the Grass (1959)

PICNIC ON THE GRASS (1959)
aka Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe
Article 2815 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-21-2009
Posting Date: 4-28-2009
Directed by Jean Renoir
Featuring Paul Meurisse, Charles Blavette, Catherine Rouvel
Country: France

A candidate for the presidency of Europe advocates artificial insemination as a replacement for sex. While on a picnic to promote his views, he is separated from his party and ends up meeting a country girl who makes him question his dedication to science.

To say that this is a sex comedy runs the risk of making it sound racier and tackier than it is, but that’s exactly what it is; it’s a comedy that explores sex and, on a wider scale, the whole issue of science versus nature. Given this theme, it is perhaps appropriate that the movie manages to be both science fiction and fantasy at the same time; the prospect a man being so popular that he manages to unite the European nations in such a way that he is capable of forming a scientific dictatorship certainly moves it into the realm of science fiction, whereas the presence of a pipe-playing farmer (with his pet goat) who can bring on a windstorm with his playing is a fantasy element. It’s an odd but quite amusing comedy, with a wealth of interesting characters (particularly in the scientist’s entourage), and it explores the science versus nature theme very well indeed. The look of the film was inspired by the paintings of the impressionists, particularly Manet’s “Le Dejeuner sur L’Herbe”, thus inspiring the title; unfortunately, my print of the movie was somewhat faded, so it was a little difficult for me to enjoy it completely on that level. All in all, this is an enjoyable and interesting French comedy.

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