This Academy Award-winning movie (Best Foreign Film, 1978) was utterly implausible until about a year ago, when the world learned of a Washington schoolteacher’s affair with her pre-teenaged student. Get Out Your Handkerchiefs is a French film (starring a very young Gerard Depardieu) wherein a young woman seems bored and depressed. Her husband believes she needs some sexual excitement, so he arranges for another man to make love to her. It doesn’t help, and her depression continues. Now both men are worried about her. They all go to a summer camp as camp counselors — the distance from the city might help the woman. There, a precocious fourth-grader falls in love with her, and vice-versa. Their relationship continues much like the one in Washington state; the two men got what they asked for, but not what they wanted.
The moral landscape of this movie is awkward, to say the least, but it is all handled with an unblushing internal consistency. The movie presents itself as a farcical sex comedy, and, taken purely on its own terms, it probably succeeds (it was, after all, made in France in the ’70s). From today’s perspective, it’s surprising, almost shocking, that such a film could exist, except maybe as a chilling cautionary tale or a sensationalized TV movie of the week. The movie is well-made, well-acted, and highly thought-provoking. You may not like it, but you’ll certainly be talking about it.