Jumping To Conclusions (Paris Style), or Failing To Read The Small Print

Readers of this blog may have surmised that I’m passionate about Paris, recently writing a post extolling the cinematography of Woody Allen’s film ‘Midnight In Paris’ (even if I do struggle to watch Owen Wilson).

The film’s Oscar nomination brought to mind a trip to a little Parisian art-house cinema not so very long ago, which I thought I’d share.

‘La caisse ouvre dix minutes avant le commencement du film’…….’The ticket desk opens 10 minutes before the film begins’ read the notice at the front of a small art-house cinema in Paris’ 6th arrondissement.  With an hour and a half to spare there was no point in hanging around.   Plenty of time to explore an unknown neighbourhood, check out the options for supper after the film – which was sure to provide an avid talking point – and generally chill out.

The tiny cinema was screening, among others ‘When You’re Strange’, a new film with archive footage of The Doors which was on limited release in England.  So limited in fact, that it was showing for one day only in a cinema 25 miles from home on a day that was already chock-full of other plans. The film was showing in ‘v.o’ – version originale, so in English with French subtitles. Perfect.

Returning to the cinema at the appointed time, astonishment reigned as a queue of some 20 or so octogenarians, walking sticks at the ready and hearing aids primed and obviously switched on, tutted impatiently for the ticket desk to open.   Having already checked the cinema’s film schedules for that evening, we marvelled that they were clearly up for an hour and half of Jim Morrison crooning about his Oedipal desires, offering to expose himself on stage (no expletives deleted) and some explicit drink and drug fuelled behaviour, all in glorious Technicolor.

Obviously Parisian senior citizens are a frisky bunch.  ‘Zut Alors’ ! we said, and ‘Oh to be like that when we’re 80’, trying to ignore our own somewhat anguished speculations that we were taking a return trip to our youth to see a film about an iconic American band with a rebellious and controversial lead singer, in the company of these elderly Parisians who were more than old enough to be our parents.

By definition came the harrowing realisation that we’re older than we care to admit (chronologically speaking), though in our heads remaining obstinately and resolutely bumfluffed.

Salvation was at hand.  The queue shuffled forward and, nearing the ticket desk, we realised that they were buying tickets for ‘La Tête en Fiche’ , starring French film star Gerard Depardieu: a gentle tale of a 50-something man and the elderly lady who befriends him after meeting in a park, billed in France as ‘a middle aged rom-com’.   The spectre of advancing years receded and regeneration ruled, several additional years having been deducted by way of a tidal wave of relief.

As an avid reader of small print, I had failed this time to read that small print which detailed an extra screening of La Tête En Fiche that evening……

This post was originally published in The Sussex Newspaper on January 27 2012.

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