Cinema in Paris

19 Dec 2002 // places

Some have said that the French have a passion for cinme. Now, I have seen this with my own eyes and I can vouch that it is true.

I was hanging out with Olivier, my good friend in Paris who is letting me crash at his flat, when as the youth of all first world countries tend to do when dthey want to do something, they go to the movies. Taking pity of my poor command of even tourist French, Olivier suggested we see an English movie. They even suggested that we should watch it in le Version Original. All good.

However, what struck me was that it was easy to see a foreign film (albeit in this case it was the lingua franca of the modern world - English) and foreign films were marketed right alongisde the mainstream film. No seedy foreign film cinemas tucked away in Paddington or Newtown. You can watch English films right in the heart of St-Michel, one of the trendier suburbs of Paris. Furthermore, the first English film that was suggested was that big Hollywood blockbuster Mulloluhand Drive. That's right. A David Lynch film.

Unfortunately, when we got to St Michel, we found the cinema full. I could barely believe it. A David Lynch film packing out the cinemas? Granted - it was a lesbian flesh flick with Freudian overtones. So we had to reconsider our options. Now in Paris apparently, if you can't find a David Lynch film, then the next best thing is - a Woody Allen film. Explain this to me: what has a neurotic 90 something New York Jew got to do with reggae playing Parisian boys? Probably a lot.

Fortunately, we just make it into this cinema. The first thing I notice that's different is that the cinema is full. No, let me explain. The cinema is full. A Woody Allen movie has packed out the cinema. Hello. Is that strange? The second thing I notice is that before the movie starts, there is an usual level of background noise. In Ozzie cinemas there's normally a lot of shuffling or some loudmouth talking but in this cinema, the noise is the sound of the whole cinema being engaged in involved conversation. As a result individual voices are not heard but there are many people conversing such that it all coalesces into a low hum of French syllables.

As soon as the movie starts I'm thrown into the bliss of hearing uninterrupted English. It's then when I realise how I've missed the constant sounds of my native tongue. For the last week I've felt like a parrot who only knows one phrase - Polly wants a cracker? Qu'est ce-aue voulez-vous? Polly wants a cracker? Comment vous-allez? Polly wants a cracker? Ou etes d'ou? Polly wants a cracker? Do you speak English? Polly wants a ... er, yes I do.

During this time I almost convince myself that I am back in Australia. But there is something distinctly different (apart from the French sub-titles). This audience laughs at the jokes. I mean most of the audience gets the jokes and laugh at the same time. Like a laugh track. I'm thinking this is odd. Ozzie audiences either don't get all of the jokes - except the slapstick ones, or, they don't enjoy laughing out loud. I don't feel out of place blurting out my cacophanous sounds in such a cinema.

It's not until the end of the film do I realise that this Woody-Allen-literate audience don't even speak English as their first language.

The French truly love their film. Ahhh I have found the place to watch film.

Ironic that the French, who are so proud of their culture, have a such a soft spot for that American cultural imperialist Woody Allen.