For the love of cinema

For the love of cinema

This story was orginally published in 2012. It has been updated. 

Bonjour les amis. Somewhere on the beautiful Côte d’Azur, in a glitzy old city named Cannes, one of the world’s most prestigious Film Festivals has just begun. What a perfect opportunity to talk about movies.
I have fond memories of Sunday afternoons spent at the movies with my family as a child. First, there were the Disney classics, La Belle au Bois Dormant, Blanche-Neige, CendrillonMy parents still love to tell the story about the day I made half the kids in the movie theater cry during Bambi. We lived in Toulouse then. Apparently, after Bambi’s mom got shot by hunters, a little girl’s voice rose in the dark and silent movie house: “Where is Bambi’s mom?,” she asked, worriedly, her voice quivering. The legend says I shouted back without missing a beat: “Elle est moooorrrttttteee!!!” (“She is dead!”) as I, and all the young children around me, started bawling. Good times.

Gone too soon?
Bambi and “Maman”

As my brother and I entered our teenage years, the movies changed. There were the Louis de Funès or Jean-Paul Belmondo (“Bébel”) comedies, or the new James Bond films (Roger Moore was a popular 007 back then.) My parents did not often select high brow movies. Le cinéma, in my family, was pure escapism. We laughed, we cried, we traveled to imaginary lands, and I remember how hard it was to get back to reality, when we finally exited the theater. It still is today. 

La Grande Vadrouille:
A hilarious buddy movie set during the German Occupation
While on the run, a bigoted French bourgeois
seeks refuge in the Jewish community!
 Jean-Paul Belmondo leads a stellar cast
in this hilarious French period rom-com

Overtime, I developed into a voracious cinephile. During my college years, I made the most of generous student discounts and would see about three movies a week. My tastes were eclectic, with a strong preference for French and American cinema. Like many of my countrymen, I watched movies in “V.O.”  (version originale,) in English, with French subtitles. I realized early on there was a lot to be learned about the English language for those of us brave enough to skip dubbed versions. That new found knowledge came in handy when I spent a year in Atlanta, GA. as a college student, and was able to express myself in a more practical way than other international students whose English was more – shall we say – academic. 

France celebrates the movies in June!
One ticket purchased = all other tickets priced at $3.50!

Going to the movies was always a special treat. Things are a bit different today. For one thing, prices have gone up drastically. And then there is the issue of modern movie theaters. You know the ones. Super-size complexes. Neon lights. Giant screens. And the food. Ah, the food. Don’t get me started. 

I am easy. Take me back to the theaters of my childhood. Those of you who lived in France between 1982 and 1988 may remember Eddy Mitchells La Dernière Séance (the Last Show,) as fondly as I do. Eddy, a veteran French singer and a great admirer of American popular culture, re-created the old movie magic on French TV screens. Thanks to him, France fell in love with Hollywood’s golden era all over again.

“Monsieur Eddy” (a.k.a. “Claude Moine”)
“La Dernière Séance” was a famous Eddy Mtichell song
before it became a TV show

Set in the 1950s, the monthly show was shot in an iconic movie theater located outside of Paris, le Trianon. The venerable building, inaugurated in the 1900s as a theater, café and dance-hall, had survived heavy bombings during World War II. Monsieur Eddy orchestrated its great comeback for six wonderful years. 

Le Trianon, Romainville
Monsieur Eddy arrives: the show is about to start!

I faithfully watched every episode of La Dernière Séance. Listening to the great, nostalgic eponymous song during the show’s credits was icing on the cake. For three hours, the audience would travel back in time, as Eddy Mitchell’s deep and knowledgeable voice regaled us with anecdotes about old Hollywood stars and studios. Each show started with a cartoon (usually Loony Tunes) followed by a dubbed, black and white American movie (imagine watching Turner Classic Movies.) Then came l’entracte (the intermission,) and Eddy, the epitome of cool, chatted with l’ouvreuse (the usher,) bringing back childhood memories of every French kid’s favorite treats. Finally, the second movie would start, another classic, shown in English with subtitles. One thing is for sure: We did not mind staying up late with Eddy Mitchell on the first Tuesday of each month, from 1982 to 1988! 

Eddy knew his stuff… whether dealing with a classic or a B series flick.
(Check out the dude in the blue shirt!)
Is it me, or did candy taste better at the movies, back then?
“Bonbons, caramels, eskimos, chocolats!” –
(“candy, caramels, ice cream, chocolate”)

Long gone are the magical neighborhood theaters Eddy and I loved so much. Imagine my misery when I visit the local multiplex theater in my little corner of American suburbia today. These buildings are about as welcoming as the average supermarket. Then there is the question of the overpriced, oversized food. The horrible smell of that vile nutritional horror dubbed as “le popcorn.” Everyone around me acknowledges two facts: 1. It tastes awful. 2. It is expensive. Then why is this an all too familiar scene as I try to watch the overpriced, often disappointing movie?

Remember Pépé le Pew? Well, let me tell you folks, when I visit a theater these days, I kind of miss the old friend…

Stay away Popcorn People!
I’ll sit next to Pepé! 

What’s an olfactory challenged French Girl to do? I did consider investing in one of those, but can’t afford one for now. This set up would be so handy for my movie nights with the girls, though…

The good news is that I own an extended collection of scarves and turtlenecks, and found a new use for them when I visit the local theater…

I fear going like this would be a bit too obvious.


What can I tell you? When in Rome, there are things I just can’t seem to do like the Romans! Besides, my old buddy Obelix the Gaul often said so… “These Romans are crazy!

So wherever you may be this week, in a city, out in the sticks, or in Cannes, France, enjoy the show. I will try to do the same!

This is my 100th post! Thank you for sticking with me. A bientôt!

01/03/16: Here is a great article a French Girl in Seattle reader, Pankaj Solanki, forwarded to me over the Holidays. You may want to read it if you love French cinema (and are a Netflix subscriber.) 

http://www.cinematyrant.com/best-french-movies-on-netflix/
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67 Responses to For the love of cinema

  1. So much to enjoy in this lovely post, Véronique! I love the story about your exclamation during Bambi and how true that you can learn so much watching foreign language films – the culture and the everyday phrases not found in text books. I know how much French films improved my French. What a great song by Eddy Mitchell too. We are fortunate to have a small old-fashioned cinema about fifteen minutes away (we were there last night!) Everyone stands for the National Anthem before the film and they still have an interval with a lady selling ice cream from a traditional tray! I had thought about writing a post about it!
    http://missbbobochic.blogspot.co.uk/

    • This neighborhood movie theater of yours sounds very interesting. Any theater with an “ouvreuse” selling ice cream and candy during the intermission is worth visiting in my book… as long as there is no popcorn. I hate the popcorn!

  2. J’adorais ces dernières séances! C’était une autre époque, souviens-toi: Les garçons en pull sans manches, la raie des cheveux bien marquée, les filles en tite jupe et socquettes blanches… Ah ces années là!…

  3. I miss the magic of the neighbourhood theatres of my childhood, with seats in the balcony and an intermission for drinks. Somehow the multiplexes seem soulless by comparison.
    Thanks for sharing your cinematic memories and congratulations on your 100th post.

    P.S. Is the dude in the blue shirt, Ronald Reagan?

  4. First of all, congratulations on your hundredth post! Very exciting! I am more of a book person than a movie person, perhaps because of my experiences in modern movie theaters, as you so aptly described!

  5. Oh, Veronique, this post made me laugh so many times. Your Bambi story is priceless! I know what you mean about big, stinky mega-plexes and just hate them. Have you been to the Majestic Bay theater in Ballard – smaller, old fashioned, and worth the trip – although they have the same popcorn as everyone else. Or the Big Picture in Ballard. They serve wine! Now that’s my kind of movie experience!

    Congrats on your 100th post! Bisous!

    • The Majestic Bay theater sounds like a great place, and I will look it up after I return from Europe this summer. We have a Big Picture theater here in Redmond. I love going there, and agree about drinking wine while watching the movie (sometimes it helps forget how bad the movie is… ) One peeve though: They still serve the horrible popcorn but they serve it in Champagne buckets. Classy! Ha!

  6. Elle est morte!!! Oh I’m laughing because when I was maybe 3 or 4, my mom took me to see Bambi ( most likely it’s first release) and I squalled so loud we had to leave. Great post V.
    V

  7. Bonjour VS – I loved your blog today, funny, poignant and a little sad – nostalgia always makes me sad. The video was wonderful. I have fond memories also of seeing movies with my mother decades ago. Remember Oklahoma and Ryan’s Daughter? Incredibly when we went to Ireland in 2010, the tour guide pointed out le bois where Ryan’s daughter (don’t remember her name) and her soldier lover had their trysts, sigh. I miss seeing you – hope you are enjoying the great weather.

    • Bonjour Cherie. Of course I remember Oklahoma and Ryan’s Daughter. In fact, I am pretty sure “Monsieur Eddy” featured them in that great movie show of his back in the day! Hope to see you soon!

  8. Congratulations Veronique on your 100-th!
    This one is so touching and resonates deeply.
    I grew up in Moscow. American movies except westerns were a rarity but French and Italian were available and much loved. Belmondo, Philipe, Delon, Gabin, Jean Marais, Trentignan were icons of handsomeness.
    Bourvile, De Funes, Fernandele, Noiret were very popular. Fantomas series were our Harry Potter+ James Bond.
    Michelle Mercier was our pin girl, not to mention BB, Anouk Aimee, Deneuve, Girardot, Marina Vladi.
    And yes, I’m still nostalgic of those giant colossal hand painted posters which promised a glimpse into the other world. It was a miracle. It was time of Cinema not movies. Going to see The Movie was an event.
    Gerard Philipe and Bebel turned me into francophile when I was a pre-teen.
    A few special theaters offered retrospective screenings that’s were I enjoyed all the classics.
    Later I studied French theatre, drama and cinema. Moved to Canada…
    …And Bebel hasn’t lost his charm with growing old. He is great in Les Miserables.
    Thank you for bringing up sweet memories.

    • Thank you so much Natalie. I see I am dealing with a “connaisseuse” and love most of the artists you listed in your comment, bien sur. Ah, “Bebel”! What a smile he still has, that old charmer! “It was the time of Cinema, not movies,” how right you are. I keep wondering why it felt so special back then. Have we become so spoiled and blase about everything that we just tick “movies” off of our weekend to-do list? It sure felt different then. Thank you for your kind comment. It is very much appreciated, as always.

  9. Love this post! And you are absolutely correct about the ginormous (and yucky) movie theater complexes here. My husband and i would much rather stay home, eat our own popcorn, (or maybe a delicious Klondike bar, or some such,) and watch a film in our own living room. No bad and expensive ‘food’, and no crowded icky restrooms. The other day, in fact, we watched ‘Diabolique’, the 1955 version with Simone Signoret, (love her,) and loved the subtitles. I was proud of how much i understood without having to read the bottom of the screen. I took a couple years of French in high school, and that is it! Anyhow, i’m talking too much. So congratulations on your 100th post! It’s a fabulous one..

    Mary

    • Merci, Mary. I remember “Diabolique,” with the great Simone Signoret, but really disliked the remake with Sharon Stone and Isabelle Adjani. Good for you for watching it in French. Movies are a great way to learn colloquialisms and improve your pronunciation. Lovely to hear from you. Have a wonderful weekend.

  10. je ne sais pas ce que tout ça va evoquer pour nos amis US, mais là, tu m’as offert un gros coup de nostalgie!M. Eddy, les glaces Miko! (soupir) Ma grand-mère etait ouvreuse de cinema, et j’ai été presque elevée dans une salle obscure, alors des souvenirs comme ça, j’en ai plein la tête!C’etait le bon temps! maintenant, les salles sont cheres, les gens mangent et discutent. Cannes est completement dénaturé par Canal + qui en a cassé toute la magie. je pourrais parler pendant des heures de cinema! et lisais-tu Ciné Revue?Bon, j’arrête sinon je vais bloquer ta boite à com! Au fait , je suis de retour à Nice.
    A bientôt!

  11. Je suis tout à fait d’accord avec toi… c’était mieux, largement mieux, quand nous étions petits. Ah, c’est fini, tout cela… cinéma Paradisio…

    Bon courage pour affronter l’affreuse réalité pop-cornisée de nos jours… 🙂

  12. So true, so nicely written… and I also watched Eddy (almost) each week. There are still a few “real” cineams left in Paris. Have you tried the “Studio 28”?

  13. I had to be taken out of Bambi when I was three years old because I was crying so much. My parents didn’t take me back to the cinema for years afterwards!

  14. I think you should invest in Apple TV and have patience for your favourite films to be released! I barely visit the cinema unless I am in Avignon for all those reasons that you mentioned…
    I love movies… can’t help myself… Such a great post Veronique… xv

    • Lovely to hear from you Vicki. We do use Apple TV at home, but I still miss the experience – and big adventure, when we were little – going to the movies once was. Looking forward to meeting you – peut-être – in Nice, France in a few weeks…

  15. Sadly, most of the movies I have seen in recent years (except TinTin) have been on the back of the airplane seat in front of me… love your Bambi story – I would have been crying right there with you!

    Bises,
    Genie

  16. You have evoked so many memories in my mind. Going to the movies really is a special story. Every person has their own special memories. For example, it was possible to skip one class and go to the movies 🙂

  17. Great post! I feel as if I’ve been to the movies, Veronique. You brought back many of my own childhood memories. Going to the movie theatre every weekend was routine. Funny how I still have vivid memories of some of those movies. The chef and I don’t often go to see movies these days, we just rent them on Netflix. We enjoy foreign films!
    Thanks for a fun post. ~ Sarah

    • Merci beaucoup Sarah. Netflix has been a wonderful supplier over the last few years. So is Apple TV these days. I even have a few movies downloaded into my faithful travel sidekick, the MacBook Air, and my new Nook, for an upcoming trip. One can never have too many movies, right? 🙂

  18. Wonderful post and felt like a blast from the past for me. Your story about Bambi brought back memories that I am sure many of us can relate to.

  19. Huge congrats on your 100th fabulous post Veronique, always so much fun to read. Like all above I have memories of the Bambi ‘tragedy’ and also I distinctly remember my sister and I weeping copiously through ‘Lassie go Home’, really when you think of it some of those old family movies could be quite traumatic oui! Such a shame they couldn’t save Le Trianon, I’m grateful every time I go that the Paradiso, Luna and Astra theatres have survived, so much nicer than the big complexes AND it would seem that viewers of foreign movies are more likely to be content with a coffee to drink in the movie rather than crunchy crisps or the vile smelling popcorn haha! Looking forward to reading many more posts, till then, take care.

  20. That Bambi story is priceless and makes me adore you even more, if that’s even possible. 🙂

    And is that George Clooney buried in popcorn?!? Lol.

    I agree with you, going to the movies has definitely lost its glamour. I live in the headquarters of AMC so we’re always experimented on when it comes to our theaters. We have theaters that are also restaurants. We have theaters that are also bars. We have luxury theaters (that cost $30 per person, not joking) where its leather plush recliners and butler service. Too many IMAX theaters. Popcorn bars with 25 different dressing options (cheese, ranch, caramel, etc). I could go on. It’s out of control.

    That’s why I prefer to stay home and netflix. I can’t afford to get swept up in it all. Ha!

    • Well, merci bien, Mademoiselle Jenny 🙂 You have good eyes too: That IS Monsieur Clooney on the picture! I personally can’t believe how creative AMC is to attract people into its movie theaters. One can only hope as much attention is spent MAKING new movies (sadly, I fear this may not be the case…)
      Great to hear from you!

  21. I couldn’t agree with you more, the old theaters had som much more charm.

    There’s a Louis Malle film, “Zazie dans le métro”, and when I was a little girl living in Beaulieu-sur-Mer (my dad was in the Navy) I had the exact same haircut Zazie is wearing. I’ve never seen it anywhere else and I still love it.

  22. My mother is French and my father American. I grew up mostly in the US, but spent 2 months of almost every childhood year visiting my grandparents in Brittany.

    As a kid, I remember watching movies on TV with my papy. Always silly, always slapstick, they were utterly forgettable movies that I adored watching because they made my grandfather guffaw.

    In fact, it wasn’t until much later that I realized that French Cinema didn’t actually refer to the brand of farce I’d grown up watching with my papy. 🙂

    • Sweet story, Gwenn. Yes, the French love their slapstick comedies, or at least they used to… Your grandfather sounds a lot like mine! Thank you for sharing your childhood memories here. Come back soon!

  23. MA BELLE!!!!!!!

    OH, moi aussi, ça fait longtemps que je te rends visite! Comme tu sais, l’école nous exige tant d’énergie! Comment ça va? J’adore le cinéma français et j’ai appris le français grâce aux films. les films de Pagnol surtout m’intriguent!

    Merci pour tes commentaires aujourd’hui et reviens la semaine prochaine et suis les liens à PARIS!!!

    GROSSES BISES, Anita

  24. Bonjour Veronique. =) Congratulations on your 100th post! Obelix reminds me of my youth in Toulouse. The last time my mom came to visit me in america, we went to see ‘Happy Feet’. She looked so happy eating her popcorn and even sneaked in a slice of cheese cake. But the kicker was after the show – I noticed she bought some white tennis shoes. I told her, it’s time for her to go back to france.=)

  25. Congratulations on your 100th post – it is an achievement and all your posts are so well crafted. Yes, I also remember going to the movies when I was growing up in France and I get nostalgic. I remember taking my mom (who was a seamstress) to see a movie of Brigitte Bardot so she could copy her coat – she did and all my friends envied me. Maybe we should go to the movies tomorrow – we have been traveling so being cool in a movie theatre would be nice (it is supposed to be 90 F (32 C) in the shade here tomorrow.)

    • Thank you Vagabonde. Coming from you, this means a lot. Excellent story about Brigitte Bardot and the dress. Things were different then, weren’t they? I guess today, most women would look online and purchase a similar dress… Stay cool in the South!

  26. Veronique a wonderful post and I too adore going to the movies. It simply takes one away to another world of adventure, love, mystery.

    Do come and see my interview with Leslie of Segreto Finishes and enter to win her Fabulous Book!

    xoxo
    Karena
    Art by Karena

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