Thursday, July 12, 2007


At this point, I think I can understand the entire oeuvre of the French Encyclopedists in French. The immortal words of Rousseau, Montesquieu and Diderot. But a small child talks to me at the Place de Vosges and I can’t speak for shit. Voilá!
Par example: We went to see a movie without subtitles on the grounds that total immersion in French is suddenly going to make us speak like Moliere himself. The movie in question, Barbet Schroeder’s L’avocat du terreur (not the Avocado of Terror, but rather the Lawyer from Hell), is about the infamous Jacques Vergés, a man who was a personal friend of Pol Pot and who has made a career of defending the indefensible: Klaus Barbie, the butcher of Lyon; one famous Holocaust revisionist, sundry terrorists and dreadful, corrupt African leaders, among other vermin. In short: he’s never met an evil monster he didn’t like.
Mr Vergés gets ample screen time to explain himself. He obviously seems to relish controversy. I think what indicts him is what he said when asked if he would defend Hitler. He responded he would even defend George Bush. This is my view, categorizes him as a total asshole. As you know, dear lecteurs, I’m not a fan of G.W, to say the least, but I would never compare him or even Dick Cheney to Adolf Hitler. Similarly, I would not compare Fidel to Hitler, as loathsome as I find him, and I would also not compare the situation of the Palestinians to the Nazi extermination camps, etc..
But I digress. My point is that although sitting through this movie without subtitles was a formidable exercise for my brain (it was mush by the time the movie ended), I understood most of it. I gather the movie makes the point, quite credibly, that Vergés has not only defended indefensible assholes, (after all, nobody questions his professional duty), but that he has illegally aided and abetted terrorists like Carlos the Jackal and others above and beyond his responsibility as a lawyer. He’s one of those horrid radical commies who in the name of the cause excuses and justifies all kinds of gross abuses through idiotic rationalizations, such as the United States does it too, or is worse, or France also tortured people in Algeria. And who could possibly be friends with Pol Pot? Him you can compare to Hitler. However, it is evident that Vergés is a brilliant lawyer, and an interesting, if deeply disturbing man.
Yet, we go to see Julie Delpy’s bilingual romantic comedy, Two Days in Paris, and we can’t understand most of the French. Because it is daily, slangy, jokey French. We were kinda lost, just like Adam Goldberg, or whatever his name is, who plays Delpy’s neurotic boyfriend who doesn’t speak a speck of French.
So much for the adjectifs possessifs, and the objet indirect, and the verbes. I want to speak!

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