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, Cendrillon. My 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 Mitchell‘s 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…
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!”
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.)