French Musicals

French Word(s) of the Day: film musical (feelm moo-see-cal)- musical (movie)

I love musicals.  They have ridiculous plots, ridiculous costumes, ridiculous dialogue, and happy endings.  What’s not to love about a man singing and dancing randomly in the rain?

Because he knew I like musicals, Théo gave me the name of his sister’s favorite French musical: Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (The Young Women of Rochefort).  It had the songs, the dancing, the colorful and ridiculous costumes.  It even had Gene Kelly (who is fluent in French?  I had no idea.).

Singing in the Rain it was not.

The premise seemed musical-y enough.  Two twin girls (pictured below in their fabulous hats), one a dancer and one a musician, want to get to Paris to sing and dance.  A group of actors come into town, and they decide to try their luck with them.

And that’s where it stopped being like an American musical.

The first example of this appeared in the dialogue.  As there is no way to describe it, I’ll give an example from the film:

Male Dancer #1: We love you.

Twin #1: Aw, we love you too.

Male Dancer #2: So we should sleep together.

Twin #2: What?!

Male Dancer #1: That’s how it works.

Just like in real life, that line doesn’t work in the film.  If that excerpt doesn’t give you enough of an idea, perhaps a clip from a song will do?  How about one from the sailor who moonlights as a painter; he has an “ideal woman” that he paints from his dreams.

Sailor/Painter: I desire her more than/ the thousands of naked women in my wildest dreams

There was also an upbeat number detailing the gruesome murder of a woman.  Remarkably similar to the lyrics in Doris Day films, wouldn’t you say?

The woman that the sailor/painter has been painting as his ideal woman (and the one he vows to marry) is actually one of the sisters.  Predictably, they come close to meeting but just miss each other so many times in the film that they seem even less lucky than Romeo and Juliet.  “But surely,” I thought to myself, “they have to meet at the end.  There’s way too much tension.  And this is a musical.  It needs a happy ending.”

SPOILER: they don’t.

There’s a hint that they’ll meet in the future, but I don’t want HINTS.  I want them making out in the middle of the screen.

Distressed, I told Théo that it was a terrible movie ending and I wanted a happy one.  He said he’d forgotten the ending of that last one, but promised me the next movie would be better: Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg)

It started out well.  The umbrella-shop girl and the mechanic were in love and dancing and singing.  The mechanic doesn’t get derided by his fellow mechanics when he says he’s going to an opera (and not a sporting event), because they’re French.

I was lulled into a false sense of security.

They want to get married, but he gets drafted into the army (during the Algerian War… so the French army was actually in use) and leaves her.  We find out they slept together before he left, and she gets pregnant.  She tells him in a letter.  He writes back happy about the whole having-a-child-out-of-wedlock thing, and about how he wishes he could see her.  Everything seems to be going fine…

Then she marries someone else.  Some rich dude.  Why?  Because the French can’t be happy.

Mechanic man comes back and says, “Why did she marry him?  What about the baby?  I don’t understand…”, effectively expressing the feelings of everyone viewing the film.

In a moment worthy of The Way We Were, umbrella girl comes to his shop years later with his child in the car.  She asks if he wants to see his child, and he says no.

And then it ends.

Théo and I need to discuss what makes an ending happy.  I think a few viewings of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers are in order.

This post is dedicated to my cousin, Bridget, to aid her in surviving the horror that is college-level chemistry.


3 thoughts on “French Musicals

  1. I can’t tell if you’re making fun of french accents with the word of the day or of it’s one of those phrases that looks exactly the same but is pronounced different in the other language.

    Anywhoozles, I just have to say that you are just spoiled on happy American musicals, seriously, Phantom of the Opera? Sweeney Todd? (the movies are both American, even if the stories originated elsewhere). VERY sad endings! Everybody dies! … kinda.

    1. I mean the crazy, happy musicals of the 50’s and 60’s. (Those are both gothic musicals, no one would call these gothic.) And made now when we’ve learned to be (slightly) unhappy. Also, neither of those has happy music and carefree dancing to topics of murder… its more somber.

      You need to see them to see what I mean. You’d understand.

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