Friday, May 2, 2008

Le Divorce

In preparation for my trip to Paris in May, I re-watched all of my favourite Paris-themed films, including Merchant Ivory's 2003 Romantic Comedy, Le Divorce. The film is generally poo-poohed by Merchant Ivory buffs, who consider it vastly inferior to Howard's End, Remains of the Day and A Room with a View, but I still love it.

Le Divorce is one of those films that everyone seems to love to hate. It's certainly a departure from the costume-drama romps that are characteristic of Merchant Ivory. It also panders to a rather one-dimensional stereotype of french people that has been all the rage since, say, the end of the second world war. The filmmakers would have you believe that all the french dress fabulously, are passionately involved in progressive causes, have five-course meals 3 times a day, that french women spend their days shopping for fancy lingerie, are never fat and their primary concern in life is contemplating their next romantic encounter, etc, etc.

If you have been to France, or know any real French people, you probably have discovered that life in France (even Paris) isn't exactly a Charles Trenet bistro tune. And sorry to burst your bubble, but the book French Women Don't Get Fat is a bit of myth. It should be called "French Women who are CEOs of Veuve Clicquot Don't Dare Get Fat" (you may have heard that Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don't Get Fat, is the CEO of Clicquot, Inc. and a senior executive at LVMH--that's Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey). There are tons chubby ladies in Paris, just like anywhere else in the world, though there are less than in North America, which is probably due to the fact that France simply doesn't offer as much temptation in the way of fast-food restaurants).

While Le Divorce offers up more than its fair share of hopelessly outmoded stereotypes, the scenes of Paris and the french countryside make this film worth seeing. Paris has come to symbolise, in the minds of women everywhere, a sort of paradise where everyone and everything is beautiful.

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