An expat discusses popular French film references – essential to know if you want to blend in with the French locals and keep up with the conversation.
When I first moved to France, I was thrown blindly into a completely different pop culture. I came from the culture where we quoted Jay & Silent Bob (Not one French person I know gets it), Dude, Where’s My Car, references to flutes and inappropriate things along those lines. Quotables are the basis of a good pop culture, and France, in her own glory, has her own quotes from films.
Mastering the quotes and watching the movies will assure that you will understand what someone means when, for example, you say something… you are contradicted, and then everyone in the room waves their right hand maniacally and shouts, “Cassséeeeeeee!!!!“.
Here we go….
Bienvenue Chez les Ch’tis – Dany Boon
A film that simply details a French from the south who is forced by his job at the Post Office to relocate to the North of France, specifically, in the region of Nord-pas-de-Calais, considered to be our version of the ‘Backwood’ in France.
From the disgusting habit of eating a stinky cheese smothered on bread for breakfast, to the incomprehensible French dialect… the main character Philippe Abrams (Kad Merad) eventually settles into the city and makes friends with Antoine Balleuil (Dany Boon).
-“C’est pas compliqué de parler le ch’timi. On ne dit pas : « pardonnez-moi je n’ai pas bien saisi le sens de votre question », on dit : « Hein? ».”
-“C’est le Nord!”
Dîner de Cons – Francis Veber
En gros a film about a high-rolling French man who gets his kicks with his buddies by inviting the stupidest person he meets to a weekly dinner. Whoever brings the most idiotic guest wins… until one day an idiot comes that is not so much as idiot as he thinks…
Some really quite funny scenes (better in original French with subtitles if French isn’t your strong point), some involving adding vinegar to wine in order to trick a tax inspector, an obsession with match stick creations…
-“Il a une belle tête du vainqueur” – Reference used when they go hunting for the “idiots”.
“-Il s’appelle Juste Leblanc.
-Ah bon, il n’a pas de prénom?
-Je viens de vous le dire Juste Leblanc… Votre prénom c’est François, c’est juste? Eh bien lui c’est pareil, c’est Juste.”
Les Visiteurs – Jean-Marie Poiré
Typical time travel, misplaced group of knights put in the 20th century. A re-make was done by Americans, Just Visiting, which follows about the same plot-line.
-“Je suis Godefroy Amaury De Malfète, comte de Montmirail, d’Apromont et de Papimcourt, fils d’Aldebert de Malfète et de Thibaude de Montfaucon… Je suis ton aieul.”
-Et on lui pèlera le jonc comme au bailli du Limousin!
Qu’on a fendu un beau matin.
Qu’on a pendu ! Avec ses tripes!”
Brice de Nice – James Huth
Jean du Jardin has become a household name since the Oscar’s glorification of The Artist, but before Du Jardin was a grand actor, he as a comedian. From Un Gars et Une Fille to the movie Brice de Nice, he was never really that serious.
Brice de Nice, is just that, a 30 year old surfer from Nice named Brice who is constantly hunting the perfect ‘wave’. However, he doesn’t really know how to surf since he lives in Nice where the waves are totally calm. Travelling around and finally ending up in a competition for surfing, there are endless, and really strange, references and jokes.
While there is not a specific quoteable, the most important concept is to understand ‘Cassée’, literally, ‘broken’. Brice de Nice constantly is able to basically pull out French versions of ‘yo mama’ jokes, and when he wins, he swings his right arm from shoulder to crotch, in a cutting fashion, proving that you, indeed, have been ‘broken’.
French people tend to do this everywhere, if you are proved wrong, “T’es cassé“, if you are saying really stupid things, “cassé“. Political pundants having a debate and one says something totally off-handed, “Casse!“.
Voilà, that’s the start to French culture… of course there are more to come. American movies still are popular, but often under French names (ie: le sixième sens, le Projet Blair Witch, SOS Phantpmes [Ghostbusters], etc).