The movie takes place in May of 1968, a month that has a special ring to the French ear. That was the month that the revolution seemed poised to overthrow bourgeois society - the month the radicals shut down the Cannes Film Festival, the students occupied the streets of Paris, and rumors flew that De Gaulle was going to flee the country. I was in Paris during that time, and collected a few black and blue marks across the back of my legs, souvenirs of police truncheons when I made the mistake of trying to sightsee in the middle of a riot. For many Parisians, it appeared that society was up for grabs.
In the country, it was quieter, and "May Fools" takes place on a small farm that has been in the same family for generations. The matriarch, much loved and also feared, rules the household. Her children, some well into middle age, have moved away - all except for Milou (Michel Piccoli), a genial man who likes to go fishing and ride his bicycle and oversee the vineyards in a desultory sort of way.
One day the mother drops dead. The family gathers for her funeral, at the same moment in history when the radicals are trying to shut down French society. Among the survivors is Milou's daughter, Camille (Miou-Miou), who suggests the estate be divided into three and sold.
Milou is shocked to think that the family's history would be so casually converted into cash, but the others point out that they have subsidized his idyllic existence in the country with their own hard work in the city.
Rumors of the outer world penetrate into the house, which is given over to a wake. One of the mourners is a sometime correspondent for Le Monde, who makes dire predictions about the future of France. Everyone seems to be on strike, and the mother cannot be properly buried because even the morticians are out. Most of the characters in the movie are solidly middle class and conservative, but a few wayward rebels turn up, including a granddaughter who is a lesbian, and a passing truck driver who joins the wake as it turns gradually into a party.
Many meals are consumed. Some love affairs are considered, others consumated. A picnic is held on the grass, and for a second it seems that revolutionary fervor will inspire these people, half-drunk on wine, to experiment with free love. But they are not quite ready for such a big step. Secrets are revealed, charges are traded, confessions are heard, and there are even a couple of small miracles, as the deceased seems to be not altogether dead.
- 1.78 : 1
- Dolby Digital Surround 2.0
- Region 4
- Standard Edition
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