I follow what the Criterion Collection puts out relatively closely. Although I don’t dream of owning all of the collection, I want to one day see all of it. Of course that is an extremely big feat, but they are making it easier by putting up free movies on Hulu (usually with a time limit). When the Land of Milk and Honey was posted on the site, it intrigued me for a couple of reasons. First off Criterion had recently released a collection of films by a film director I had never heard of before. Pierre Etaix is a lot like Jacques Tati in that he is a comedian who directs his own films and he is French. The crowning achievement of this collections of films was this film that through a long and expensive restoration process took a severely damaged film and made it viewable again. The last thing that intrigued me about the film was that Etaix decided to do something different. Instead of doing yet another comic film, he decided to direct a documentary on normal French people vacationing after the events of May 1968. If you are not aware of the events of May 1968 in France, then I suggest you look it up. This was a monumental time in the history of France, and yet it seemed to business as usual for the common people. All of these things combined made me want to see the film, but nothing made me want to keep watching it.
Now let me say that I did finish the film, it was just with one eye on the subtitles and one eye buried deep into the depths of reddit. I felt like there was so much potential here, but it was sadly wasted on images, questions and answers that did not relate to events happening at the time. I can appreciate documentaries that sort of dance around their points, but the point Etaix was making here was almost indecipherable. Why make this documentary at all if you just have a bunch of footage of this terrible singing contest, people on the beach and inane answers to whether or not they cared about astronauts walking on the moon?
I wish Etaix was more present in the film. He has a very pleasant sequence at the beginning where him, an interviewer, and his editor are consumed by all of the film stock that they produced. But he doesn’t come up again until the very end when he asks various people if they had heard of Etaix. Most of them say that they have not, but some say such mean things about his comedy that I found that to be the only other moment of comedy.
I guess this film was just not for me. I have not given up on this director and I hope that another one of his films comes up on Hulu’s 101 Days of Summer. But I will not be giving this film another watch.