Saturday, April 18, 2009

Why when you're 13 years old watching French art films is a better way of spending your Friday evenings than downloading internet pornography

Most people would agree with that. Well, in public at least. But when I were a lad (expect more grumpy old man comments to follow) the foreign art films were watched for mainly debased reasons.

Classmate, Buzz Johnson would had scoured the TV Times and would announce that there was a French film on at 10.30 on Friday night. BBC2 or ITV. Both channels had loads of those foreign films on. I think they must have just been cheap schedule fillers.

But it caused high excitement in the playground. Buzz Johnson had some film guide book and if he said it was going to be a good film, who were we to argue? Catherine Deneuve was in this one!!!!

I didn't actually like her particularly as a lust object. And as an actress she seems to be made out of ice. Although ice that occasionally melts, which I suppose is the point of her.

But the point was that Deneuve would, inevitably be, at some stage of the film, be semi-naked!!!

In her bra and underskirt shouting at her husband and smoking a cigarette. It was like the underwear section of the Kay's catalogue come to life! Just in black & white and with the Kay's models talking French, looking angry and smoking. Not quite how I had imagined it, but still...

I grew up in the dark ages. The time before the Internet. And I was able to stay up late due to a lack of parental supervision. It can be quite good having that kind of freedom. Quite educational. If you just do what you want, you learn things. You learn not to stick your fingers in live electrical sockets for instance. You learn that dying your hair with household bleach is not a good idea and can cause your skin to burn and peel off. And you also learn that watching Foreign films can actually be quite fun. In a non-educational, non-poncey, non-film buffy way.

Cos often times you'd end up watching a film till 2 in the morning without a even a spot of random nudity. Just middle aged French people arguing, smoking and discussing death. But usually it was a bit more exciting than that. Even if there was no nudity. Usually there was some murder or weirdness to keep you awake. These were films where you couldn't tell what was going to happen next. Films that didn't fit into the easy Hollywood genres of thriller, rom-com, sci-fi, etc etc. That didn't star Chevy Chase.

But they were all watched in the first instance on the off chance that they would contain nudity of some description. Even a willy. Just for shock value and the 13 year old boys desire for *compare & contrast*.

I'm sure there were lots of duff French films but the irony is that I quite liked a lot of them at the time. Your French New Wave films can quite appeal to a young lad. Given that lots of them are about unhappy young men wandering around fighting and *not being understood*. Or else being hopelessly in love with girls that don't care - then shooting people - it's all quite adolescent and male fantasyish. And for a young male - there's nowt wrong with that. Some of them just seemed randomly plotted. They made no sense. They jumped about and broke all the rules. They could be both boring and fun. Fun because you'd never seen anything like it before, and bewildering because you had no idea what the point was.

These French films from the 50s and 60s and those of Luis Buñuel are still easy to remember years later. If it wasn't the decadent middle class lady fantasising about being a prostitute in Belle de Jour, it was the people chatting and sitting at a dining table while they had a poo in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. Surrealism really works for 13 year olds. Very random and odd and weird and cool. And you're not too old to still think poo is funny.

Now of course, I am too old to think poo is funny. I know that pooing is a very serious matter, nothing to be laughed about.

These days of course (putting on my grumpy old man hat and cardigan) if you were looking for smut all you would have to would be type *toss the salad* into Google and you'd come back with a million and one shocking images. It's the modern world. I'm not *complaining*, just commenting. Channel 4 have just done a big ole series about porn and da kidz. "Hey kids, it's not real this porn stuff, ya know! Have relationships! Be safe! Be realistic about your bits n bobs!!" Which is all fine. But it is a bit like writing 'May cause cancer' on a packet of cigarettes. I don't think it's going to stop a 13 year old boy from finding out for himself. Which, again, is fine. I guess

Anyway, years later as a pretentious wannabe film buff, I was both pleased and disappointed to find that sitting down in the cinema to watch what I thought was gonna be my first ever François Truffaut film that I'd already seen the film. In fact it was one of my favourites from my youth. The 400 Blows. The one about the mad lad that does all that nutty stuff & gets thrown out of school. Yeah, that one. No sex scenes.I had gained myself an education in foreign art films without ever even realising it. I guess your 13 year old porn hunter gains an education in how to hide his browsing history in Internet Explorer, but it's not really the same.

Oh, pretentious, moi? But of course. And in denial of the modern world? Oui. Coupable comme chargé.

1 comment:

  1. It has been brought to my attention that I have got one of the films absochuffinglutely wrong. That's my lack of proper research and relying on my aged memory. I said 'The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie' and I should have said 'The Phantom of Liberty'.

    Thank you, that man for pointing that out and providing a link to wonderfully, terribly bizarre scene. If you haven't seen it - you've never seen anything like this: