The only sure thing at the French Film Festival besides interesting films is the waiting.
In my experience, screenings never start on time and this afternoon's was no exception.
Arriving at 12:30 for a 1:00 film, I was dubbed "line leader" and the lively group that fell in behind me addressed all their questions to me.
Did they have to stand single file (no)? Did they have to hold hands with their buddy (no)? Could one person hold a place for twelve of their friends (preferably not)? Had I seen "My Week with Marilyn" (yes)? Why don't you just join in our conversation (thanks, I will)?
We were waiting for "Poupoupidou," a mystery thriller comedy set in the coldest village in France and involving a cheese model whose life eerily echoed Marilyn Monroe's.
During the endless wait once we were seated, I was delighted to see a warning flash on the screen.
"No texting during screening. Violators may be removed."
Amen to that.
Before the film began, we were informed that its star, Sophie Quinton, had had a last minute family emergency so wouldn't be here today to take questions after the film.
Disappointing but not a deal breaker.
The movie began with an excellent cover of "I Put a Spell on You" by Xenia, which was rivaled only by a cover of "California Dreaming" during car scenes in the frozen landscape.
The story was pretty basic: a blocked writer (are there any other kind in movies?) uses the death of a local model as inspiration for a new book.
Along the way he figures out how she died (not by suicide as the local gendarmes claim) and has her life story revealed to him through reading the journals she'd kept since she was a teen.
Note to self: destroy all journals before death.
Of course, everything that occurred did so in a very French (read: unAmerican) manner, which was delightful.
When the writer calls back to Paris to find a letter a fan had written him, he thanks the girl he speaks to (whom he calls "Moneypenny") by saying, "What do I owe you?"
"An 18-pound wheel of Comte" is the offering.
That's a lot of stinky gratitude and I'd happily accept it in thanks for a job well done.
The Snowflake Hotel where the writer stays while he's investigating has a broken boiler, so no heat, a situation hard to imagine an American guest accepting.
The girl who works the front desk comes on to him, brings a hot toddy to him in the bathroom (after taking a healthy swig) and by film's end when he's yet to ask her out, tells him, "It never would have worked between us anyway."
I can't recall the last time I saw that kind of personal service at a hotel here.
It's only after being electrocuted, punched by her ex-husband and bandaging the foot of one of her admirers that the writer discovers how she died.
And by then he's convinced that if they'd met, she wouldn't have died.
Because how can you have a French movie without love?
"It's always by the end that stories begin," he concludes at the end.
Yet it's always at the beginning of a line that all French Film Festival stories begin.
And as line leader, it's my job to remind people to hold onto the rope so no one will get lost.