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Posts Tagged ‘French cinema’

In troubled emotional times, I tend to retreat to the uncomplicated, the easy, the predictable. Last weekend, I watched a romantic comedy, but not the latest cookie-cutter Hollywood rom-com. This film was from France.

Rom-coms are one of the most predictable story-types in an art form that excels in predictability. Boy meets Girl. Boy likes Girl. Boy does something dramatically stupid and can’t hope to get Girl. Boy does something dramatically different and outside his comfort zone and gets Girl. Big Red Bow. The only real mystery about rom-coms these days is, will it work?

To be fair, when you’re constricted by the tropes of such an established sub-genre, it is really hard to make it work. The actors can be good but the writing can suck; the writing can be brilliant but the film is hopelessly miscast. Everything works except for the pacing, which drags on (or speeds through) crucial turning points in this oh-so-formulaic form.

But a rom-com from the Nation of Romance? I’ve screened French comedies in the past and found them to be either mindless slapstick or subtler works that are only “comedies” in the way that some of Shakespeare’s plays are “Comedies”: a few laughs, and not everyone is dead at the final curtain.

Thus, I set down to watch this movie (English title, “I Do”) with genuine interest. How would Paris, the City of Love, the City of Light, the land of the New Wave, work within the straitjacket of this genre?

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I got a severe case of déjà vu today. It lasted 89 minutes.

I was getting ready for my workout. I pulled up a “Anthony Zimmer” from my Instant Queue and got going.

A woman goes into a restaurant. She waits. She’s being stood up. A messenger enters, sees her, and gives her an envelope. She reads it, crumples it, burns it, and leaves.

I knew I’d seen this movie before. I knew what she was going to do next, I knew where it was going, but I also knew that I’d never seen this movie before. And it wasn’t just the Bernard Hermann inspired score (equal parts “North By Northwest” and “Vertigo”) or the scenes of Paris and the Riviera that I’d seen in a dozen movies from “To Catch a Thief” to “Ronin”. No, I’d have remembered Sophie Marceau in this movie. I remember Sophie Marceau in every movie I’ve seen her in (call me crazy). The damned thing was…I couldn’t remember how it ended. (more…)

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