Over the last couple of weeks, I have seen several French films. One was a part of the Puterbaugh Festival, another was with French club, and the last one was in my French class. The titles were, respectively, Né quelque part, Amélie, and L’arnarcœur. Here’s a brief summary of each of them.
Né quelque part. This translates to “born somewhere.” It is about a man who has lived in France all his life but is forced to visit his father’s homeland of Algeria when the government threatens to tear down the family home there. There weren’t any subtitles for it, so I didn’t really understand much of what was being said, but I could still get a general gist of what was happening. The most confusing part about the language was that it would switch back and forth between French and some other language that I didn’t recognize, so I could never tell if I didn’t understand because I don’t know enough French or because they weren’t even speaking French. Although it was still very interesting because it not only showed the stark contrast between the two cultures, but also how closely tied they can be.
Amélie. This was a very strange movie (in the typical French fashion) about a girl who lives in Paris and is basically trying to find her purpose in life. It definitely has an odd, surrealist feel to it, as do many of the typical French movies. Amélie is quiet, reserved, and dreamy, but also has a strong desire to be a “do-gooder.” She goes around trying to make other people happy, all the while being rather lonely and miserable herself. She is in love with one person, but has always been to shy to ever speak to him, and she plays a game of cat and mouse with him while trying to work up the nerve to actually meet him. Although it was a very strange kind of movie, it was still neat because it was a good example of the typical French mindset.
L’arnarcœur. This translates to “heart breaker.” At first glance, it would seem to be a really cheesy chic flick, but it was actually really cute. It is about a guy who is a professional couple-breaker-upper, along with his two partners who are, ironically, his sister and his sister’s husband. This guy goes around breaking up unhappy relationships by getting the girl to fall in love with him instead, thus making her realize how much more potential there is in a relationship. Then he gets one job that proves to be more of a challenge. The couple is actually genuinely happy together, so he would not normally take the job, but he takes it anyway because he really needs the money. The girl proves to be very faithful to her love and refuses to be conned, but the con ends up falling in love with her, and now he truly does want her to fall in love with him. It sounds really cheesy, but it was actually a really cute love story.
Following the language was a very interesting challenge for all the movies. For one, I am still not incredibly proficient in French, so although I did understand a good bit of it without the subtitles, it became confusing when they started speaking in other languages as well. Occasionally they would actually speak in English, and it was funny because I wouldn’t even recognize that it was English until after they switched back to French. For instance, in Amélie, there was a part where the girl was watching something on TV, and none of us in the room could figure out what language it was on the TV. It turns out that it was English, but very southern american English, so none of us recognized it because we were so used to hearing the French.
Although all three of the movies were French productions, they were all very different, and it was interesting to see three completely different types of French movies. The first was more serious and focused on real cultural issues. The second was extremely surrealist and pretty much questioned the meaning of reality in general. Then the last one was just a fun, lighthearted comedy of love. Each one was entirely different from the others, and each one captured a different part of the French culture.