Although this gentle country-house comedy is farcical in structure (with the various members of the Vieuzac family lapsing into indiscretion and conflict as they strive to sort out the estate after the death of the mother of Piccoli's sexagenarian aristocrat), genuine black humour is held at bay by Malle's refusal simply to condemn his characters' wealth, blinkered conservatism or selfishness.

His huge, unsentimental affection for both bucolic milieu and characters is perhaps surprising given that the time is May 1968. Stranded by strikes and unable to hold a proper funeral for the corpse, the clan philander, the family fall out, and finally flee for the hills in absurd fear of Commie atrocities. It's less political satire, though, than a partly nostalgic evocation of an era; The Rules of the Game (Renoir) and Weekend (Godard )may be ancestors, but the tone is more akin to Goretta or Truffaut.  Time Out.

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