Sunday, March 25, 2018

Found in Translation

And another French Film Festival is in the rear-view mirror of the Peugeot.

It may not have been my best work - I made it to a film a day for four days - but this year's festival will be memorable for the pleasure of sitting in the Byrd's new seats all four nights and...drum roll, please... having had a date for two of the films, a first unless you count girlfriends.

And they count, but this is different.

Two of the films -"Les Gardiennes" and "Cessez-le-feu" - had World War I themes and settings, little surprise given that 2018 is the centennial of the end of the Great War, but which also meant both contained war scenes that necessitated me closing my eyes to avoid seeing horrible things.

My inner documentary dork was well fed with "Un Francais Nomme Gabin," the story of France's most iconic actor and a man I'd never heard of, Jean Gabin. That he'd made 95 films meant that the documentary-maker had a treasure trove of images and interviews to tell the star's life story.

Although I'm not sure I'm buying that he'd have rather been a farmer. Talk is cheap once you're a star. That's like saying, "I wasn't really hungry for that hot fudge sundae" after you've devoured it. Easy to say, hard to believe.

Arriving early for "Cessez-le-feu," I caught the Q&A after "Du Soleiel dans Mes Yeux," notable because FFF founder and host Peter Kirkpatrick translated what director Nicolas Giraud was saying and afterward, Giroux commended Peter for "not only conveying my words but my emotions as well." They even hugged on it.

Later, when "Cessez-le-feu's" director Emmanuel Courcol came up to introduce his film, he spoke French, saying, "I speak perfect English, but I want Peter to translate for me." That got a major laugh.

Between translations, I chatted with a woman in the row behind me today when I overheard her and some friends discussing the Gabin film. Next thing you know, she's telling me that much as she loves French film, Italian film is her favorite, so I bring up "Call Me By Your Name," which she's yet to see.

Then she explains why Italian is best for her, that she comes by it honestly. Seems once she and her husband retired, they moved to a small hill town at the base of the Alps near Milan and lived there for a year and a half. "It changed my life, changed me," she shared. "I recommend it highly."

I hear you, ma'am.

A young woman took the empty seat next to me as the presentation of the French delegation and volunteers was beginning, but she was so focused on her phone that when the audience began applauding the festival's accomplishments, she continued to scroll with her left hand and snap her fingers with her right, a Beat-like concession to what was going on.

Byrd manager Todd was called up and provided a stirring, scenery-chewing speech about the legacy of the Byrd and the FFF. Likening the combination to one of the city's must-see monuments, he intoned, "The French Film Festival and delegation is an annual monumental achievement and deserves to be recognized as such!" Clap, clap, clap.

"Cessez-le-feu" had all the makings of a fine Sunday afternoon romance, what with a bearded war hero just back from the trenches and a lovely sign language teacher who falls for him just when he could really use it. Once they've acknowledged it's mutual, he insists that it's time to be selfish.

That would be selfish, but in the grand, romantic tradition. As in, it's all about you and me, baby, and to hell with the rest of the world. This is still an option in 2018, right?

"Be selfish with me," she says back. "Let's be selfish together!" he responds, one-upping her. When he entreats her to return to Africa with him, she has to remind him that she hardly knows him. Clearly she hadn't gotten the memo about living for today after the uncertainties of war.

The way I see it, selfishness is something you earn with life experience and best when accompanied by the good fortune of finding the right person.Because doing so is nothing short of a monumental achievement.

And I heard from someone who knows that it deserves to be recognized as such.


  1. Good for you kiddo!

    I had a cat named Gabin. I'm just that hip. coff.

    You sound happy. True?

  2. Mais oui! And you are that hip.