One of my fondest cinematic memories is seeing a line outside a Paris movie theater for a Marx Brothers flick.
The Marx Brothers. A line. For a film that was, at the time, at least 60 years old.
See why I love France so much?
OK, perhaps the infatuation with Jerry Lewis–one of the silver screen’s least funny performers–doesn’t make sense, though I have to admit liking his Gallic equivalent, Louis de Funès, quite a bit. (Watch The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob and see if you agree.) Yet the truth is, there’s a film culture there that pervades the national fabric. Why? More than a century of cinematic prowess is one reason, but I think another is the notion that people just like movies there. Good movies. Old movies. And often new movies.
Many years ago, as I attempted to coordinate a showing of the original 1968 version of The Producers in my college dorm, a friend of mine pooh-poohed the idea, decrying the film’s “old humor.” True, not everyone shares those sentiments, but I wondered then–as I do now–why some feel nothing that’s been around more than 10 minutes has any value cinematically. Doesn’t quality last longer than novelty … at least, in most cases?
I’m not deluding myself: There’s no way every person in France likes the Marx Brothers or, for that matter, any old movie because of its age. Bad taste is everywhere–the admiration of les films de M. Lewis offers evidence of that–yet I think there’s a sensibility in France that suggests its inhabitants often understand what it takes to make a good movie … and why it should be valued regardless of the years behind it. Again, I’m not sure why this is, and I’m not saying one country’s better than another.
But when I summon up remembrance of movies past, I think of the line outside that French theater to see a Marx Brothers comedy. And I can’t help but find a love in my heart for Paree.