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Colin Randall wrote here on France, things Anglo-French and more......but has moved

January 24, 2007

Taking leave of critical senses

This site has now moved to Salut!

Lovers of French cinema come clean, and to my rescue.


Picture: Daryl Van Horne.


Who hasn't quite enjoyed a film in the language of Molière while thinking that if this were in English, it would be dismissed as pornography or trash, or both?

Gérard Depardieu, not to everyone's taste though I find him a likeable mixture of vulgarity and rough-diamond charm, has been in at least a couple of movies fitting one or other description. So has Béatrice Dalle.

The thought occurred as I was smarting from a friend's reaction of utter horror at my admission that I had quite enjoyed The Holiday, the lightweight story of two women - played by Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz - who swap homes on either side of the Atlantic for a fortnight.

Not even a defensive aside - "I know it's fluffy but watching it in French I really liked it (even if I haven't much time for Diaz or Jude Law" - did me any good. As far as my friend was concerned, I might as well have told her I had decided that line dancing was cool.

Back came the reply: "I can't believe you liked it. I thought it was terrible....."

Terrible, and just to rub it in, "apart, of course, from Jude Law who looked absolutely divine".

I have not read any reviews in what the French like to call the Anglo-Saxon press, and almost certainly won't now, so have no idea if anyone, anywhere, watching in English, came away smiling.

Perhaps someone can come up with an even more distressing example of a film that grew in stature, or seemed to, just because of the language.

There is no similar excuse for having also enjoyed Mel Gibson's Apocalypto, since everyone sees it with subtitles from the Mayan dialect.

But at least here I am in authoritative company. The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, who must know what he's talking about since he is my elder daughter's favourite critic and she works in film, overcame real personal resistance to give it a four-star review.

"If people have got it in for Mel Gibson," he wrote, "he has only himself to blame. His behaviour has been repulsive. Everyone is prejudiced against his films. I am prejudiced against his films. So the sentence following this is going to take me quite some time to write, because between every keystroke, there will be a three-minute pause while I clench my fists up to my temples and emit a long growl of resentment and rage.
"Mel Gibson's Apocalypto is pathologically brilliant. It is bizarre, stomach-turningly violent and frequently inspired."

The Graun's recommendations, sadly, appear to carry little weight in these parts.

The version we saw, with French subtitles, proved no Sunday afternoon draw at Le Forum, a cinema tucked away in a small shopping centre just along the coast at La Londes-les-Maures.

The man who took our money - only five euros each - also acted as usher and projectionist. He'd have served the ice creams and popcorns, too, had there been any.

As we entered the surprisingly large salle, he detected our surprise at the row after row of empty seats. "Oui," he said with resignation, "vous êtes quatre."

A little pessimistically, he'd reckoned without a late rush. By the time the film started (only a few moments later since Le Forum doesn't mess about with trailers and ads), we had grown to five.

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This site has now moved to Salut!

22 Comments:

At January 24, 2007 10:04 PM, Anonymous SH said...

I do remember the 1965 Louis Malle film "Viva Maria et Maria" starring Brigitte Bardot, Jeanne Moreau and George Hamilton - enough to keep everyone happy there! My recollection is that it was just froth and looking it up on Amazon now I see it is described as "screwball" - usually the American kiss of death, that word. But whether because of the language or not, it came across as very pleasant-tasting froth.

But if you want to gaze at Kate Winslet and your friend wants to gaze at Jude Law, why worry about cultural judgements?

The language of Molière cannot do justice to Clint Eastwood, though.

 
At January 24, 2007 10:53 PM, Blogger Gigi said...

Oh - but Gérard Depardieu is My Hero! Surely he can't have made a trashy film...not Gégé.

As for the pornography - I must have missed that one...do tell :-)

 
At January 25, 2007 12:41 AM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

Was "The Holiday" in English with subtitles or dubbed into French? I can see watching the former, guilty pleasure or not, but the latter? I find no pleasure at all in dubbed movies.
The last notable French film I saw was "L'Homme du Train," with Johnny Hallyday and Jean Rochefort. I can't imagine how much their performances would have been diminished if we'd had English voices speaking their lines (and never quite matching their lip movements).
A lot of American movies are made here but Canada isn't noted for its own film-making (though Quebec has produced some very notable stuff). But there was an excellent action-comedy released last year called "Bon Cop, Bad Cop," about two detectives, an anglophone from Toronto and a francophone from Montreal, forced to work together on a murder and terrorism case. Part of the humour comes from the fact that both are actually bilingual but won't admit it. But what makes the film really special is the way the dialogue switches very quickly - sometimes in mid-sentence - back and forth between the two languages. The versions released in French- and English-speaking Canada were subtitled to suit. Dubbing would simply have ruined the whole thing.

 
At January 25, 2007 8:45 AM, Blogger Colin Randall said...

Someone may correct me but my understanding is that all or virtually all foreign (foreign to to Francophonie, that is) films are dubbed - Apocalypto being a special case as it is subtitled wherever you see it - and Bill is correct: they never seem right. It's naturally easy to find the undubbed version originale if you are in Paris but, of course, we're not. I do remember seeing films from Quebec, Switzerland, Belgium etc on a French cable TV channel, with subtitles, which was a great way to follow them.

 
At January 25, 2007 10:34 AM, Anonymous Jules said...

Why, oh, why watch an English film dubbed into French? I try to avoid that and I hate watching French films dubbed into English; my French is reasonably fluent although English sub-titles are a bonus. But that might be because I'm probably deafer after too many Led Zep concerts and sometimes miss what the actor says while he's firing a missile-launcher amid huge explosions so the sub-titles sometimes save the day. I did take my son to watch Star Wars at the local cinema and that was in French but it didn't make much difference to be honest - most of what they utter has little real bearing on the plot....

 
At January 25, 2007 9:00 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

Colin, see if there is a 'Diagonale' cinema near you. They will do VO films and arty stuff not normally seen in Gaumont.

I adored GD in the Count of Monte Cristo.

I will not pay to see a film dubbed. A complete waste of money in my opinion

 
At January 25, 2007 9:26 PM, Blogger richard of orléans said...

I don't like films, dubbed, silent, black and white, what have you. It's escapism. The Anglo Saxons need it for obvious reasons, but in France it seems unnecessary.

 
At January 25, 2007 9:26 PM, Blogger richard of orléans said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At January 25, 2007 11:11 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

Escapism can be a very wonderful thing. As can movies, though I've never been keen on the silent variety. I hate mime "artists" too.

 
At January 26, 2007 6:31 AM, Blogger richard of orléans said...

I suppose you're right Bill. We all need our escapism.

Mine was getting out of England. It seemed more constructive than watching another James Bond movie.

 
At January 26, 2007 12:31 PM, Anonymous Roads said...

I'd like to see that film, fluffy as it may be. Parts of it were filmed in the village of Shere near to my home and which Louise knows well, too. Was the cinematography any good ?

The film crew took over the village for a good while, spraying snow onto all the roofs although it was July.

One of my favourite cycling lanes was closed for filming when I cruised past one evening.

I didn't get to meet Jude Law, that time. But strangely enough, we did speak briefly on the phone, although it was a different screenplay he had in mind just then.

 
At January 26, 2007 2:26 PM, Blogger Bill Taylor said...

Getting out of England isn't escapism, Richard, it's escape, plain and simple. Been there, done that. I felt exactly the same as the plane lifted off from Heathrow a couple of weeks ago.

 
At January 27, 2007 12:57 AM, Anonymous Tim Sinclair said...

Conjuring up Molière would certainly not entice me to see a film. Will anyone admit to reading him by choice? Boring and incomprehensible - even French acquaintances in Pezenas (supposedly his home at the height of his career) agree with my school days memories.

 
At January 27, 2007 11:21 AM, Blogger Joan Dawson said...

Dare I admit to having enjoyed the Holiday in English? And that I have no intention of going to see the ultra-cool Babel in any language having endured 21 Grams, a film that was about 20 Grams too long.

 
At January 27, 2007 9:38 PM, Blogger Icedink said...

Wasn't the Kate Winslet character supposed to be something to do with the Telegraph? Can't say I saw it, but the recieved wisdom isn't good. One the other hand, I went to see Venus with Peter O'Toole this afternoon at the Greenwich Picture House and it was bloomin' fantastic - a proper comedy of manners.

 
At January 27, 2007 10:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Icedink.We are all so pleased that you enjoyed your film.But,do you mind?
A little less frivolity and more attention to the dictionary for your spelling abilities.

 
At January 28, 2007 8:00 AM, Blogger ColinB said...

Methinks An(onymous) Gilbert is back. Beware, lest she turn into
An(archic) Gilbert. That lady has form.

 
At January 28, 2007 12:42 PM, Blogger richard of orléans said...

'Escapism' 'Escape' Now 'Escapist'. This is from today's Times:

"THE enduring popularity of everything French and escapist, from A Year in Provence to A Place in the Sun, shows that the desire to possess a cheese-and-wine-stocked Gallic bolt hole is strong within our national psyche. According to a Mintel survey in November, a quarter of the UK population want to buy property in France."

Let's just hope that the 'escapism' of British films is good enough for that 25% to not put in place their 'escapist' plans of 'escape'

 
At January 28, 2007 12:56 PM, Blogger ColinB said...

Here's a cut-and-paste from the Orléans blog:

"I emigrated to France as a young man and have lived here for 30 years......"

Seems we have yet another irregular verb in the English language, ie to emigrate

I emigrate

You escape

He/she invades

 
At January 29, 2007 11:39 AM, Blogger Sarah said...

I went to see Apocalypto on Friday and was stunned by it.

I must say, I don't follow the movie world much, so while I know that Mel Gibson has repulsive views, they didn't put me off going to see this film (which happened to be the only film available at 8pm non-dubbed on Friday).

It was technically amazing with a fantastic story-line. The characterisation was great and the language issue rendered the whole so much more credible.

Amazing.

 
At January 31, 2007 12:36 PM, Blogger Colin Randall said...

Yes, Icedink.......Kate Winslet plays a Telegraph reporter in the film.

 
At February 05, 2007 3:38 PM, Blogger Colin Randall said...

......and before this posting disappears from easy view, let me say that I have redeemed myself by seeing Molière, the new Shakespeare in Love sort of look at the French bard. That may impress the friend who gave me such a hard time about the Winslet film, since she is a brainy French graduate, but then Joan Dawson, who is another, liked The Holiday and Tim Sinclair thinks Molière was a crashing bore.

 

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