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?