Aug 23, 2007

French Class

Now that I'm back from France, I'm forgetting the French I learned. So I'm watching lots of movies in French, both at theatres and at home, to see if somehow something sticks.
So far, I've seen Blame it on Fidel, by the daughter of Costa Gavras, which is a diverting but kinda lukewarm coming of age story about a snotty little rich girl who grows up with very lefty, albeit bourgeois, parents. I wasn't as taken with the film as I expected, although the little girl is appropriately snotty and it is interesting to see an unsympathetic little girl for whom you do muster some sympathy. The politics of the parents may be virtuous, but in the highly hierarchical, unforgiving world of childhood, they may wreak havoc while you are growing up and finding out who you are. It's a wonderful subject for a film yet one watches this movie thinking that there is a better movie buried in there somewhere.
Dans Paris is a terribly obnoxious film starring my darling Romain Duris. The film tries to be now like the films of the nouvelle vague were in the sixties, except that what was fresh and new and bracingly disorienting then seems painfully embarrassing done today, even if it's an homage. The only reason I sat through it was because it was French Class. Otherwise, I'd have seriously considered leaving after five minutes. Which was good, because it gets slightly better as it progresses. Dans Paris is a melange of French directorial styles (early Truffaut and Godard), including an actually lovely musical number over the phone, a la Jacques Demy. It starts out in a completely maddening, pretentious way, but somehow it grabs you. Some of it is relatively charming, most of it is just very proud of itself. It's interesting to watch French people trying too hard to lay on the charm. Ces't ne marche pas, like they say.
At home I saw the very scary horror movie by the Fréres Dardenne, L'Enfant, which won a Palme d'Or at Cannes in 2005. As a French lesson it wasn't very helpful, because the characters are barely literate themselves. But it is a tense, chilling film, in which the horror (no blood spilled, minimal violence) is that of total human detachment and a lack of moral consciousness. It is a fantastic movie, with an amazing story that keeps you at the edge of your seat, (including even a scooter chase) but it is intelligent and chilling and ultimately heartbreaking and the kind of movie you will never see done in America, land of the formula.

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