French Films or French Kisses? Choose.
A friend who recently moved to Paris asked me, “Do you go to French movies often?” To which I replied, “No, not very,” omitting the “not if I can help it” that I was thinking. Then I continued to say, “But, I’m game,” to be interpreted as “perhaps the company is worth the ‘torture’ potentially to be endured” having to watch a French film.
There is no doubt that already, those of you who are fans of French cinema, are standing by to lynch me for this bold confession, but at least allow me an explanation.
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Parler Paris Nouvellettre® continued…
In the beginning, it was the language that deterred going to French films, knowing full well it would be difficult to understand the French without the subtitles in English that one would find Stateside watching the same movie. Then, there was the excuse of simply having the time to see ALL the other GREAT films (American blockbusters) PLUS the French ones. And lastly, I never met a French film I liked.
You would think that after 15 years of living in a French world, that one would have come to actually understand it, and yes, many parts of it I have and even have crossed over to their way of thinking on many issues, but this is definitely not one of them. Especially after what I witnessed last night at the MK2 Bastille theater — “Les Derniers jours du monde,” with well-known actors such as Mathieu Amalric, Catherine Frot, Karin Viard and Sergi López.
Ok, but remember…I was ‘game.’ It had been at least a year since seeing a French film — maybe more — but what the hell. It’s only one evening and how bad could it be?
This is where you should be able to hear my snickering. From the first opening scene, which was frontal nudity of the main male character for no apparent reason, to the final smoke-filled screen that hung on for what seemed like an eternity, sitting there was a combination of confusion, hilarity and yes, down right torture. Lasting a full two hours and ten minutes, this film, like every other French film to which I have ever succumbed, left me wondering what kinds of minds write, produce and act such drivel.
There were a few others in the audience who were giggling through the film as I was — obviously foreigners such as myself, who were having the same serious culture clash. My friend, mind you, was loving every moment! And so were the almost-filled theater of French who couldn’t leave their seats for long after it ended not to mention much of the press who gave it five star ratings!
When we left the theater headed for dinner, and throughout the course of our meal at Planet Sushi, among the very pink surrealistic atmosphere, I found myself giddy and smiling incessantly from the very memory of the absurdity of the film. It took hours and even until this morning to digest it and understand, not only what transpired in the ‘story’ (I use that word lightly), but what the culture clash is really all about. That’s what most intriguing — why is that my American mind can’t wrap itself around French concepts?
There was a lot of sex and nudity in the film (including a few orgiastic situations), but it never amounted to much, never served a purpose and was not in any way sensual or stimulating. People were dying everywhere, but those that weren’t didn’t seem to care about the others…or their own lives…and managed to mostly kill themselves, for again, no apparent reason…but not until AFTER they’d expressed their devotion to someone, who didn’t care about them anyway.
The scenes took place across the globe in the most bizarre situations, such as the running of the bulls in Pamplona or atop the North Pole, but by some amazing coincidence, the main characters seemed to ‘bump’ into one another in these remote spots.
None of the characters were particularly pretty or handsome, particularly the main character, “Robinson,” who is a wiry little guy not very ‘well endowed’ (we saw that from the beginning, remember?), scruffy, dirty and covered in blood throughout the film, but who succeeded to have more women wanting to make love to him than he knew what to do with, including an ex-wife who gladly removed her panties for him to ravish her in the midst of a war-like atmosphere immediately after which she gets blown up in a torched ambulance.
Oh! I almost forgot the most important senselessness of all! In the very beginning of the film, you see Robinson’s severed arm and prosthetic hand that plays a major role in his lack of ability to perform certain tasks, but is not always there as the film drifts back and forth from one point in time to another (that I never understood, either). And guess what? In the end, you never learn how he lost it!
We decided it was a French man’s wet dream to have all that sex without emotion, particular one so unlikely to have any friends at all. And that our American minds want more ‘closure’ — a beginning, a middle and an end that brings you full circle. At least, I do. I don’t have to have the proverbial ‘happy ending’ that most Americans yearn for, but for crying out loud, at least there should be a story!
My friend had a completely different opinion and loved every minute of what to me, was as painful as Chinese water torture. So, I guess he’ll be going to the next French film without me, dare he ask. Meanwhile, I’ll stick with the aspects of French culture I still adore, admire and understand: French cuisine, French art, French architecture, French literature, French manicures, French doors, French fries and French kisses.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
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