Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Screen Speak/Real Speak

My eldest is a fan of 'Poubelle la Vie'... oops, I mean 'Plus Belle la Vie' which is a tele series on France 3 at 8.15pm on weekdays. It has a certain charm, mostly because it's not set in ubiquitous Paris, but in Marseille.

I don't really follow it, but if it's on, and I'm sitting down facing the tele, then I will, for want of anything better or more energetic to do, watch it.

What always amazes me when I watch French people talking French on tele not in real life, is that they sound nothing like French people do when they normally speak French. I'm not sure whether this is down to crap acting (which it probably is) or is an acting school technique to show how difficult it is to be an actor because you've got to sound totally different and totally alien to real French people.

On the tele, folks are always mumbling, gabbling, sulking, shouting, being cross and basically sounding like they have memorised their lines and want to get them out as quickly as possible: 1) to show how well they know them; 2) because the lines are so bad the actors would be cringing if they had to say them any slower; 3) because they have to cram everything into 30mins which means either they say them within their allotted span of time or they get edited out.

I work with a bunch of French people and they never sound anything like actors do on the tele, or even very often in films. There seems to be Screen Speak, and Real Speak, and ne'er the twain will meet.

French films are often about shouting. French people, according to screen writers, are always cross with each other, so they shout and sulk and storm off or fling insults at each other. My TWDB does none of those things and neither do any of the couples I know. They all talk to each other normally, so what is it with Screen Speak? Why is it so unreal and so bad? Has no one else noticed how excrutiating it is listening to these same actors becoming the same person over and over? No wonder the best ones work hard at their English so they can expand their horizons.

Before you think I'm being horrid and critical about French movies, let me assure you that there are some that I like very much. Le Diner des Cons is an excellent movie with brilliant social observation. I also have a penchant for the earlier 'Taxi' movies because of the car and the first 'Visiteurs' movie. However, in all three, you'll notice much shouting, pouting and bad temper.

To me, it just gets a bit predictable and boring. Give me lively, funny, jolly 'Men In Black' any day!


  1. My daughter talks to Nathan and a couple of other actors from Plus Belle La Vie, on MSN. So she's nearly famous :-)

    I love French films. I love the old ones best, especial Pagnol's films and practically anything with Fernandel!

    I like Coluche's films, too - Caio Pantin is my favourite...

    I've never seen Men in Black...:-)

  2. Pagnol...OH OUI!!! Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources are exquisite. Masterpieces.

  3. Thanks Gigi & Expat...mee toooo!

    "Le Grand Chemin", too, and all the oldies - and Plus Belle La Vie is an institution here like "Coronation Street" used to be in G.B.

    When I was young i went to see all the oldies "Hotel du Nord", "La Bete Humaine", all the chansonniers etc.so that I could talk to my kiddies about it, "atmospnere, atmosphere, est ce que j'ai une gueule d'atmosphere"!!!

    I love french actors, films and also adored "Caio Pantin".

    I did not see Men in Black either.........

    I think whatever the language if its good.super. And the series of films Pagnol were absolutely wonderful.

  4. Yes, the golden era of French films was back in the days of black & white. They spoke normally in those days.

    They were made, however, over 50 years ago. The most recent Pagnol films date back to the mid-80s.

    What does that say about today's films apart from the fact that they are crap? eh?

    Name your favourite film from the last five years.


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