Sunday, August 14, 2022

Version Originale

OMG! KJ! Me too!

If you were dressing a set so it screamed "Film student c. 1999", what movie posters would you pick?

La Femme Nikita, okay, maybe. I'll give you a pass on that. But Merci La Vie? Seriously?

Merci La Vie came out in 1991. It was directed by Bertrand Blier, best known for Trop Belle Pour Toi, which won the Jury's Special Grand Prix at Cannes in 1989, or rather tied for the title with the better-remembered Cinema Paradiso.

Merci La Vie, the next film Blier directed, is barely remembered at all. The plot ("A sinister doctor (Gérard Depardieu) purposely infects a promiscuous woman (Anouk Grinberg) with a sexually transmitted disease.") accurately suggests it would have enjoyed nothing more outside France than a short run on the art house circuit, which was indeed where I saw it back in 1992.

Although I can remember absolutely nothing about the story or indeed the film itself, it must have made a deep impression on me at the time because I never forgot it. A few years ago, on the understanding that the World Wide Web had made all human endeavor instantly available on demand, I put some effort into getting hold of a copy. It turned out to be a more than averagely difficult ask.

At the time, I couldn't find a DVD copy anywhere but I did manage to track down a VHS tape on EBay. Unfortunately, it was in French with no subtitles. I can read French well enough to pick my way through a story in Le Monde but the spoken word is annoyingly just out of my reach. I understand enough to be completely confused and no more. I bought it anyway.

I didn't give up. I kept looking and eventually a DVD appeared on Amazon. I added it to my wishlist and someone was kind enough to buy it for me for Christmas. I was so excited!

It's a shame I hadn't read the following review, which very accurately sums up my reaction to what I saw and heard when the opening credits faded:

"Terrific film. However, the copy I obtained is , horror, DUBBED in italian. With the original french soundtrack, the Italian subtitles cannot be deleted, which adds they're extra surreal dimension (as if the story needed another) of having the impression that this is an Italian film dubbed into french. "

I note as I write that the current version on Amazon specifically states "Subtitles: ‏English". I may have to buy it for a third time to see if that's true.

As for why this particular film poster appears on the wall in a scene in the new Amazon Original time-travel show Paper Girls I can only hazard the vaguest of guesses. Given the relative contemporary obscurity and subsequent lack of interest in the film it seems an odd choice. Maybe someone on the production team is a fan of either Blier or one of the two stars, Charlotte Gainsbourg or Anouk Grinberg. If they were a fan of Depardieu they'd have chosen something else, surely. He made enough movies in the 90s, after all.

It could be that the film, partly revolving as it does around the relationship between two young women, is intended to say something about two of the young women in the show itself, the older KJ and her girlfriend, Lauren but if so I don't remember enough about the movie to know what it might be. If I ever get a copy with subtitles I can understand, maybe I'll figure it out.

Paper Girls is a very good show, by the way. I might do a post on it some time. If you haven't watched it, I'd suggest you do. Merci La Vie, too, if you can find it.


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  2. I am french, but too young to have ever heard of this movie ( was 6 when it was released)
    There are quite a lot of famous french actors in it. Funnily the french wiki gives less information than the english one, but the english one hints at time travel '"Illogically, she tries to persuade [her parents] to reunite long enough for her conception to take place." Could it be the link to Paper girls ?


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