Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Charming Evening

Gerard Depardieu, Audrey Tattoo, Jane Fonda and Tintin have all been to Bourdeilles. These movie personalities have found there way to our hidden corner of France not for some grand awards ceremony, or to turn a period piece in our glorious chateau. They arrived here in two very large tin cans, well movie reels to be more exact, and courtesy of our county government.

Every two weeks a white van pulls up to the school auditorium and one man sets up a one-night stand cinema.  This is not just a small time big screen TV deal. We get an enormous screen and the movie comes as two large reels played on a mammoth-sized projector. When things get going it sounds just like a movie ought to, tchk tchk tchk, as the teeth pull the enormous reels along.

Villagers have walked up the hill from their various corners of the village. The audience is a gaggle of regulars, those of us that drop in when it suits us, and the women from the town ‘Fun Committee’ that put out the concession stand. The movie cost 4 euro’s. We are seldom more than 12, and yet the movie van continues to come. The amount of people attending is not the point. The point is that there has been something offered to the village where some people might not have been able to afford a movie or the cost of transportation. A lot of this is a throwback to a time when many people in the village would not have had a car.

The movie rolls and we fall into the illusion that we are in a grand theatre. The screen is big, the volume is just at that point of too loud and the audience gasps and laughs at appropriate moments.

At the end of the first reel the lights come on for intermission. Time for a visit with neighbors, “what do you think of the movie”, “so and so is a great actress”, “so and so has no business being in that role”, “you must be having a hard time understanding-- even I can’t understand the accent and city slang.” A few people wander over to purchase a sugary snack. The French even prefer popcorn with sugar on it. Then the lights go out and the movie resumes.
After the happy ending (a Hollwood flic) or an open-ended ending (A French film) the lights come back on again we hop up and begin to stack our chairs. No reason for the poor Fun Committee to have to do everything. Once the stairs are stacked the movie man looks around for some long, strong arms and gets help lowering the screen and hefting the monster projector back into the truck for the next evening’s showing in another village on down the road.

And now comes my favorite part – the walk home. There are usually two or three of us that talk about the movie on the way back down through the village. Lampposts light the way and the village is eerily quiet. Shutters are closed and our echoing footsteps are the only sound unless one of lets out a sparkly laugh in the crisp evening air. One by one we split off as we reach our path home. I cross “my” medieval bridge and listen to the water flowing underneath. Most nights the grey heron will cry out a warning that someone is afoot in the dark. How wonderful to take advantage of such a charming evening out.

ps - wonder what the response to our next film is going to be?? ---mine for seeing my life sitting in a foreign country - and the french audience for seeing a life they have not known.....


Juanita said...


Thank you for the nice note of your evening. I can imagine you in your charming village. I don't always get back to you and Tom but I love reading about your life in France.

Have a nice Easter

elizabeth said...

I see the poster for "The Help" though the French translation is a lot more descriptive of the plot! I would love to know the reaction to that one by your neighbors. What a delightful and "quiet" evening. I think of how much French you have to know to participate--and I commend you both!


Mary Jo said...

Thanks for sharing the details and the photos of your unique experience with the French cinema. I love how intimate it is, even with the disruption for the changing of the reels, for you all participate and get to share your sentiments during the break. Love the reference to the sound of the reels. Takes me back to the old home-movie days.

Maybe you can get a group of women to see The Help together since there is so much to talk about afterward and you'd have a distinct perspective to add to the conversation. Would love to hear how this plays in your small French town.

Lynn at Southern Fried French said...

Thanks for sharing you charming evening with this charming post. I'm on the 'fun committee' too, here in our Burgundy village, you're giving me ideas!

Anonymous said...

I feel a little closer to France for having read your blog. The tranquility of the nighttime village is appealing. Wish I could see or hear that heron. You brought it all to life.