Culture Rover

#189 - Oui, Vivant

Alexander Payne's ends the recent collective film Paris je t'aime with a short that is one of the most moving pieces of cinema Culture Rover has seen in a long time.

At first the short seems to be a parody of an American in Paris, in this case a husky, middle-aged Denver mail carrier on her first solo jaunt to the city, wrapped in her fanny pack and played brilliantly by Margo Martindale.

But as the film unfolds, narrated by Martindale's character in horribly-accented American French, we realize that we are viewing a report that she is giving her French class back in Denver after her vacation trip. She mispronounces words, mixes up Simone de Beauvoir with Simon Bolivar, and is altogether about as unhiply heartland American as you can get. But she is also sweet, sincere, and endearing. She is also, amazingly, one of the most intellectually engaged and emotionally aware characters in the entire film.

As Martindale's American in Paris in fanny pack reflects on her trip, Payne brilliantly shoots the city's quality of light, often allowing a halo of sun to glow atop Martindale's uber-Midwestern haircut. His deadpan presentation masks a deeply-felt sentiment not only about Paris, but also about its supposed opposite: heartland America.

If you can see through the banalities as Payne does, then Denver's French foreign language classrooms contain as existentially-profound a soul as France itself. This mail carrier from America finds her place alongside Sartre and Simon Bolivar (I mean Simone de Beauvoir).

Here's the short, courtesy of YouTube:

9 December 2007

Back to #188

Go to #190