Tuesday, March 04, 2008

French Culture: Dead?

Quelle horreur! Time Magazine has proclaimed the "death of French culture", making the same argument that I've leaned towards in my more irritated moments: the French can be high and mighty about their culture, but have you listened to the new Cali album? Did you enjoy the latest Emmanuel Mouret film? Hmmmm? Ezzzackly!

The Old Grey Marianne just 'aint what she used to be. And yet, the problem with this argument is that it implies another one that goes something like- The latest Claude Chabrol film made a fraction of what The Chipmunks brought in. Therefore, it must be a lot worse! It's even less convincing when you talk about pop music. I'd much rather listen to Cali than Fergie; actually, I'd much rather punch myself in the face than listen to Fergie. But the point is well-taken. Cultural dominance and market dominance are not measured the same way.

The article also seems to suggest that French films, books, and music could stand to be a bit less intelligent, sort of dumb it down a little. Maybe Claude Chabrol could shoot a scene in which the funny man gets kicked in the balls by a CGI panda... On the other hand, French films, books, and music does tend to be a bit self-absorbed and a bit twee. That's where the article rings true- mass culture in general is in the pits right now. But, the French really do make too many films and write too many books about bourgeois Parisians having droll conversations about their love affairs. Dinner with Andre? Non, merci.

It's never a good idea to proclaim the death of anything, aside from dead people. The French still have fashion and gastronomy to their name. And with so much French attention, thought, and money focused on their culture, it's hard to imagine that it will wither away. Also, to be honest, the strangeness and difficulty of French culture is part of its charm. That's not a bad thing. Even if it doesn't play in Albuquerque.


Holly said...

Personally, I was amazed at what did play in Albuquerque. Not that French art films are necessarily my thing, but there you have it.

Often I get the sense that the real complaint is that the TASTE for (whoever's) culture is what's dying. Like that thing about how many Americans didn't read any books for pleasure last year. Or, you know. Any.

Maybe French culture isn't waning, it's just that no one wants it. It sort of amounts to the same thing, in a way.

(is that what you just said, but you used grown up words?)

Rufus said...

I think that's probably true. Part of my wishes they would make more films and books that traveled well. But the other part of me fears that would just mean a French version of the Transformers movie, which nobody needs.

Maybe French culture could stand to be a bit more accessible outside of France though. Currently, a film called Bienvenue Les Ch'its is breaking records here. It's about the cultural differences between Northern French people and those from other regions of France.

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Rufus said...

Totally. I couldn't agree more.