Friday, December 02, 2005

Subtitled Fillums

'But most of all, my panache!''Ave you 'eard that extremely annoyingg ad on ze rrradio, where zere iz zome mademoiselle with an accent thicker zan ze cheeze ze size of a tractor wheel encouraging uz to go to some foreign movie fest-ti-val? Mes amis, is it simply the fevered imagination of An Spailpín Fánach, or is that ad just as crass as having someone in blackface singing "My Old Kentucky Home?" It's not like we think it's Sophie Marceau, and don't know that it's actually some boiler whose day job involves raising the standard on Fair City by acting according to The Method. Specifically, the Ronseal Method, I believe.

Listening to the copy is instructive, though. As advertising copy it is poor, of course, as your faithful chronicler of modern Irish life didn't realise until I came to write this that I have no idea what this festival is for or when it's on. A quick google tells me that the only film festival that's on right now is a German one (meaning we should have some Brunhilde character replace Sophie, shouting "raus! raus! Ze offens are zataway!" I suppose), so that can't be it. The Jameson Film Festival isn't on until February, so it does seem terribly early to be advertising that.

What is interesting however, as we listen to Nat'lie from Fair City trying to sound like Marie Antoniette, is the revalatory insight it gives into the people that run these festivals, and whom they expect to turn up. If we can judge by the this ad, they're not actually looking for anyone who ìs particularly interested in movies. They're just looking for snobs. Someone who wants to go along to a French Film Festival because he, she, or it thinks it'll sound good in Rody Boland's or, God help us, Kehoe's of South Anne Street, later. They'll tell you that the French are so different to Americans, not so bombastic, so much more, I don't know, full of joie de vivre, perhaps? Oh, right, you'll say. So what was this picture about? Oo-er, they say. Haven't a bog.

If they knew their stuff, which of course they don't, they'd realise the French New Wave Cinema of the 'Sixties, the Goddard and Traufaut stuff, was France's tribute to Hollywood, which, like jazz, is a American Art first and foremost. Having a pop at US film, as they do in this film festival ad, is like that vogue in literary criticism that dismissed the Western Canon as simply the work of Dead White Males. If it wasn't for those DWMs, there wouldn't be any literature to criticise, and these goofs would have to get real jobs, instead of wearing black polo neck ganseys and bothering the first years in the Universities of Ireland.

Not that there's anything wrong with a movie just because it's French. I'm just getting a bit annoyed with the notion that everything is right with a movie just beacuse it's not American. The 1990 Cyrano de Bergerac that starred Gerard Depardieau is one of An Spailpín Fánach's favourite movies ("I saw him look at her with his eyes; it was like seeing a slug slither along a rose." Now that's a man that's torching. Quality.) but that's not because it's French. It's because, like any great movie, it takes me to places I've never been and makes me think and feel things I've never thought or all felt. Not because I thought I'd be able to swish around the wine bars of Dublin being gallic and insouciant.

The last movie An Spailpín Fánach went to see in an Art-House Cinema was Sideways, the movie that was billed as a comedy but played very much like a goddamned tragedy to your narrator's terrified eye. I saw it in one of Dublin's leading art-house cinemas, and the biggest laugh of the night, from a two-hour movie, was when George Bush was seen in the background on a TV screen. If you're mixing in a certain society, any reference to George Bush will always get you a cheap laugh. But what's behind the laugh is the notion that we are not some thick like George; we are urbane, cosmopolitan, witty, charming. We wash down our boxty with the finest of fine champagnes. We have a lot to learn.