Cheese-eating Movie Monkeys

The other Paris videos

The French sometimes bewilder us. For example, American conventional wisdom holds that when the French aren't blowing up a McDonald's or performing mime, they're discussing Camus over buttery meals that seem to contain no calories, a metabolic sleight of hand invented by Robespierre but perfected in Vichy France by Gauloise-sucking members of the Resistance.

This is utter nonsense. So much of what we know about the French -- or think we know -- is mired in stereotypes. Luckily, film exports can sometimes dispel the more baffling francophobic misconceptions. Movies, such as the 14 offerings in the French Film Mini Fest, can serve to clue us in on real French life and prove that the French don't spend all day pooh-poohing fat, NASCAR-addicted Americans. That's because, as evidenced by the film Gregoire Moulin vs. L'Humanite, they're much too busy juggling romance and soccer (um, football). Or, they're too engrossed in getting fired or laid-off and embarking on one of their incredibly long holidays, as in Secret Things, The Adventures of Felix, Window to Paris, and When the Cat's Away. Or they're meeting kind eccentrics while apartment hunting, as in The Butterfly, Same Old Song, and Window to Paris. (Note: Window to Paris is about losing a job and meeting kind eccentrics while apartment hunting.)

This kind of stuff doesn't often happen in America. Only in a country with socialized medicine and a 10 percent unemployment rate does being sacked actually make you sexy. Only in France do you discover spiritual growth through interactions with neighbors. This goes even for the Mini Fest's non-French selection, the sexy 1972 Italian Last Tango in Paris, wherein a beautiful mademoiselle, while house shopping, meets a mysterious American expatriate -- Marlon Brando, no less. -- Dave Amber


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