One of the few negative effects of living in England for as long as I did was an irrational antipathy toward the French. I'd never thought badly of the French before; in fact, I'd been quite fond of both them and their country before I moved to London, where contempt for les grenouilles is almost universal. It's the one form of ethnic prejudice that's still considered completely respectable in most circles, and I must shamefully admit that to some extent I succumbed to it as well.
Granted, that whole cheese-eating surrender monkeys business in the wake of 9-11 didn't help either, but the net result was that during the 10 years I lived in London, I never once bothered to make the quick (2 1/2 hours by Eurostar) journey over to Paris, which, now that I'm quite a few more hours removed, even by plane, seems absolutely mental.
Never mind, though; now that I've started visiting Paris again, I've warmed right up to the French, come to appreciate their way of life, their food, even their manners, which I don't find anywhere near as atrocious as some people would have you believe. In fact, apart from being more soft-spoken (generally) and better at holding their liquor (or not drinking nearly so much of it in the first place), they're actually quite similar to the English, which might in itself explain a lot of the hostility.
But my recently declared entente cordiale with the French was put into serious jeopardy tonight when I was invited over to a warehouse by some friends for an informal "movie night." A little pizza, some laughs and conversation, a movie projected onto a bedsheet on the wall, what could possibly go wrong with a scenario like that?
I'll tell you what: La cité des enfants perdu (The City Of Lost Children), that's what. Almost two hours (I would have sworn it was at least two and a half) of pure French, pseudo-artsy gobbledygook, replete with corny costumes, nonsensical plot, and agonizing longeurs during which nothing seems so sweet as falling into a deep, deep sleep or, alternatively, having a bullet put through one's head.
Maybe, just maybe I could find this sort of melodramatic crapola interesting were I on the right combination of psychedelic drugs. During the 70s I watched a wide variety of French films while on LSD, marijuana, and a few less salubrious substances, none of which I can recall a single salient feature about apart from the fact that they seemed profound at the time. But it's been a long, long time since I've taken drugs, and as a result, I found The City Of Lost Children nothing short of torturous. Before we were half an hour into the movie I found myself regularly checking the time to see how much more of it I'd have to endure, and contemplating how I might be able to sneak out of there without anyone noticing.
Unfortunately, with there being only one door and its being located so that I'd have to walk through or in front of all the other guests to make my escape, I resigned myself to sitting through the whole dismal spectacle. When it (finally) ended I nearly ran out of there, not even waiting for the ride I could have had, just so I could avoid having to offer an opinion about the movie.
Because, you see, everyone else was raving about it. "So beautiful," "amazing," "gets better every time I see it," were some of the capsule reviews. Hang on, I said to myself; these are my friends. Have they taken leave of their senses? Or am I just that far removed from Brooklyn's artistic gestalt?
Since none of my friends were on drugs either, it's probably the latter. And I'm all right with that, I guess. My recent experiences in the City of Light have shown me that the vast majority of French people have no interest in such merde de chien, and if a few of my Brooklyn friends do, well, God bless their artsy little souls. I'm sure they feel similarly about my love for Green Day and Lady Gaga.