Yoyo ★★★★

Consistently daring, not least in the double-casting determining its progression and non-outcome: Étaix is the adult millionaire in the first half and his son in the second, forcing the separation of the two (one reason why dad refuses to exit his carriage to view his restored mansion at the end). Few films have so casually compressed the entirety of the WWII occupation of France: bookended by footage of circus performers and frantic music entering the ring slowing down (as war approaches) and speeding up back up to normal (when it's over), the sequence in-between punctuated by one rude gag about Nazis interrupting a front-line performance for the troops. Fabulously, defiantly non-sequitur-ial ending — son exiting the get-together he's thrown for himself on the back of an elephant who's been lurking in the woods for years — makes sense only as the cementing of a connection based on inherited tradition rather than the active presence of the showbiz father.

Begins as silent comedy homage, then the Depression hits — and so does a voice-over narrator, linking economic catastrophe with the arrival of sound, ironically considering how a near-one-joke conceptual execution broadens out. A film starting with nostalgic circus reminiscences (arriving in France the year of Yoyo's release, Jerry Lewis was told Étaix "was the only contemporary French comic imbued with the circus tradition, even casting clowns regularly in his films") ends with startlingly precise, justifiably irritated portraits of the modern mega-successful comic as misanthropic businessman, with Yoyo seeing an incompetent novelty goods salesman while conducting phone calls and dismissing a "Gag Man" who hasn't come up with any jokes for the day (whose folder is knocked over by the salesman, a gag Yoyo doesn't notice). No wonder he flees his own high society party. A fabulously inventive film I've only sketched a few rough contours of, and sure to make major waves once it can be more widely seen again.

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