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And They Didn't Live Happily Ever After...

Yesterday, we opened reservations for one of our semi-private special events, Dinner and a Movie, South 'n France style. Pascal and I spend a great deal of time debating films and choosing ones that we feel will be just right for such an occasion. Pascal is always the first to remind me that the French invented cinema; I'm always the first to remind him that although that may be true, in most French films someone always stabs herself in the hand with a fork. The French aren't very big on what they call "Le Happy Ending" (pronounced le ap-py end-eeng); so many great French works are classified as "films noirs" - dark, macabre, somewhat disturbing with little to no closure at the end. We thought you might like to see a few French films that we really do adore (and recommend), but that didn’t make the cut as suitable dinner entertainment:

Ridicule: A critically acclaimed, Academy-Award-nominated film, Ridicule is one of our favorites. It's an exceptionally entertaining tale of passion and deceit, where a young man eager to save his hometown quickly learns in the court of Versailles that a sharp wit is the key to open any door. But his mission is complicated when he finds himself locked in a dangerous triangle with two very seductive ladies: a sophisticated older woman who can help him, and an innocent young beauty with nothing to offer but her love. It's wickedly funny (with lots of clever jeux de mots) and outstanding performances. Why didn't we choose it for Dinner and a Movie? The opening scene of the film shows (and I mean shows!) a man urinating on his enemy who has just died of a heart attack. We didnt think that worked as a good appetizer...

La Femme Nikita: French director Luc Besson directs this female-driven action movie, my favorite French action film. It's a great story about a violent street punk (Nikita) who gets trained to become a smooth, stylish assassin. Nikita is a study in contrasts (crazy, kind, athletic, maternal, anarchistic) and you can't help but fall in love with her during the movie. There is so much dramatic tension, even though I've seen it more than a dozen times, I still get nervous during certain scenes. So why didn't we choose this classic cult movie? For one thing, it has a "French" ending. But it was the beginning (and for that matter the middle too) that made us say "non". Does one really want to see drug addicts, intense violence, shootings, a constant string of expletives and a steady stream of blood while eating a refined 5-course meal? We didn’t think so.

La Vie en Rose: Marion Cotillard gives an astonishing, Academy-Award winning performance as Edith Piaf. The film, which chronicles the life of legendary, international superstar, Edith Piaf, is a powerful blend of devastating tragedies and artistic triumphs. Piaf was born into poverty and survived using the only gift she had, her voice. Her battle to sing, survive, live and love with no regrets is captivating, but it also didn't make our cut. Why not? The story is told out of sequence with flashbacks which require concentration - miss reading a subtitle or two and you could easily get lost. It's also rather long with a running time of 141 minutes. Better to watch this one with eyes riveted to the screen while munching on popcorn.


The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: Loved the book; loved the movie. Based on a remarkable and inspiring true story, this film is about the awesome power of imagination. A young, dashing fashion magazine editor, Jean-Dominique Bauby, suffers a stroke and becomes imprisoned in his paralyzed body. He can only move his left eye - and through that eye he learns to communicate, one letter at a time, with the help of a speech therapist. He eventually writes (or in this case blinks) a stunning memoir called The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. The cast is outstanding, and the movie portrays Bauby as a man who finds the will to live through his imagination without painting him as a saint. The movie has been described as a "cinematic poem", which is why we didn't select it. People have strong, personal reactions to poetry, and depending on your character, this film will either inspire, depress, or both. Plus, don't forget that we linked every menu to the theme of the film. Hospital food just wouldn’t cut it...


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