Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mais C'est la Vie pour Maintenant

I would have thoroughly enjoyed the James River Film Society's French Film for Lunch series today even if a handsome Frenchman hadn't come up and introduced himself. But it was certainly a lovely addition to my noontime adventure.

Today's screening was the last week of the series and it was a double feature: Jean Vigo's Zero for Conduct (1933) and Jean Renoir's A Day in the Country (1936). As mentioned in the pre-screening lecture, both films were notable as much for their superb cinematographers as for their seminal French directors.

And for true film buffs, there was the pleasure of both being shown on 16 mm celluloid, so the satisfying clacking of the projector was always there, just under the dialog and music, reminding us that this is the film experience as it was intended to be.

Zero for Conduct was notable for having spawned any number of schoolkids-gone-crazy movies that have followed, including Rock and Roll High School and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Pillow fights, anarchy in the classroom and rebellion at recess were all the set-ups for the final scene where the kids disrupt Alumni Day. Kids and chaos, always a crowd-pleaser.

Easily one of the most beautiful black and white films I've ever laid eyes on, A Day in the Country, based on the experiences of the Impressionists was a sweet little story of Parisians escaping the city for a day of "wildness," like rowing, swinging and a picnic lunch of fresh fried fish and Bordeaux.

Frankly, it still sounds like a great way to spend an afternoon. And maybe it's just me, but being romanced on the banks of the Seine on a sultry summer day will probably always have its appeal.

When I went to leave the library auditorium afterwards, a charming member of the audience walked up to me and asked, "Parlez-vous Francaise?" Surprised, I told him no with my best all-American smile.

Seems he recognized me from other screenings and presumed I was French speaking; surely I disappointed him by admitting that I was merely a film lover, although he didn't show it. He asked if I was a regular at the French Film Festival, which of course I am, and told me that for him, "It's cheaper than a trip back home."

The French Film Festival will undoubtedly take on a whole new level of enjoyment this time for having a Frenchman with whom to watch and discuss the films.

I may even brush up a little on my French before February. It's been a while, but it couldn't hurt, now could it?


  1. a Francophile? since I am relatively new to your blog I am unaware if you have been to France or not. If not of course you must before you die. [Obviously you realize this]. I'm told by friends that Paris is not "the most beautiful city" in Europe. Maybe so, but it delivers. When you go you will enjoy. Stay in Paris at least 3-4 days minimum...walk as much as possible...for some spots, a taxi is a must. A few years back I stayed at the Hotel Henri' IV in the Latin Quarter. It is near the Boulevard Saint Germain. Cafe's abound. You will not be disappointed. Speak French if you can, be sincere. The French are good people but like everywhere else there's some what?..Good food, great attitude, etc. You like History...historical buildings, famous'll die good sex & chocolate, your senses will be overwhelmed...You've seen pictures of the Eiffel Tower many times..but stroll under it. Admire how grand it is, how huge it is, how exquisite its' legs are, how intricate. Then begin your journey to the top & view the Parisian landscape from above. Soak it in...Yes of course I realize that I am babbling like a child here...except it is a subject that emotes passions. Truly I cannot tell anyone what it is like..they must see for themselves. If you have been then you understand what I am saying..if will.

  2. Welcome, Relatively New Reader. Thank you for giving me a wonderful read upon arrival home tonight.

    I will.

  3. you're welcome...

  4. oui oui, but i think that any time of year during which it's comfortable enough to be romanced beside the Seine means you'll be surrounded by other Americans in the throes of romance. I expect all the French would be in Italy being romanced by other French. And the Italians? I don't know where they'll be.

  5. Not a problem for me. I can be romanced anywhere.