Attempting to be a high-brow filmgoer

I went to the movies last weekend, and since we like to broaden
our cinematic horizons beyond what Hollywood has to offer because
what Hollywood has to offer is so frequently a waste of perfectly
good costumes, we went to see a French film.
I went to the movies last weekend, and since we like to broaden our cinematic horizons beyond what Hollywood has to offer because what Hollywood has to offer is so frequently a waste of perfectly good costumes, we went to see a French film. Notice that it was not a “French movie” – I don’t know why, but it seems to be a tradition that if a motion picture is made overseas it is always called a “film.” Means the same thing, but it just sounds intellectual as all get-out.

So anyway we went to this art house on the Alameda – notice it’s not a “movie theater” if it shows foreign movies, I mean films — it’s an art house, because once again, it’s snootier. The film was called “Merci Pour la Chocolat” and it was very thought-provoking, which is to say that when I thought about the wasted and never to be retrieved portion of my life which passed while watching it I was provoked to thoughts of violence.

The title means “thanks for the chocolate”; it should have been “thanks for the money, you foolish American highbrow suckers who for no known reason cling to the myth that we deep-thinking French make movies for smart people while you only make movies for cave-dwellers who like to see big things blow up.” There was chocolate in the movie, I mean film, but it had no more importance than anything or anyone else that wandered pointlessly across the screen for the approximately three weeks it seemed to last. I mean, I can’t reasonably expect car chases and computer-generated special effects in every movie, but what the French consider action appears to consist of the actors occasionally moving from one chair to another while dispensing their languid syllables in an “I am bored; therefore I am cool” monotone. It’s the audio-visual equivalent of watching someone pour thick syrup over pancakes. For three weeks. Except that would make a better movie because at least pancakes are appealing.

And then of course there are the subtitles, for those few among us not bored-certified in French. Normally it’s an irritating distraction to have to watch the words running across the bottom of the screen instead of actually watching the story; it was fortunate in this case that there was no story; in fact, the

words moved faster than the action. Well, maybe I’m being too harsh there – much of what the director doggedly pursued as though it were a plot

consists of two people playing pianos, so there is some very rapid finger-movement going on, but in terms of whole bodies, the subtitles definitely were more energetic.

As we were leaving the scene of the crime, I commented to my wife that if the French really wanted to draw big crowds of American intelligentsia to their films they should make the subtitles in some language other than English – say, Old Hittite or Gaelic. That way the audience could have even less idea what the hell is supposed to be going on, and would therefore assume that the film was even more cerebral and profound.

Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek – now we’re talking movies. Hooray for Hollywood. But then again, I’m just an American cave-dweller.

Robert Mitchell practices law in Morgan Hill. His column has appeared in The Dispatch for more than 20 years. It’s published every Tuesday.

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