Why are the French so pretentious?

I am currently watching – well, while I’m not laughing – a French film called “A l’aventure”. I can’t even begin to describe how unoriginal it is, which would be fine if every frame didn’t resonate with misplaced gravitas, as if the story is somehow so artistically significant that the first scene must feature a wise old man, who fulfils the same narrator role usually assumed by Morgan Freeman.

As usual, the whole plot is a thinly disguised excuse for lots of gratuitous sex and “bohemian” attitudes to infidelity – i.e. it’s all about personal fulfilment so it’s not really bad. Some middle class Parisian lady wants to discover new experiences, so she hooks up with a psychiatrist she meets in a cafe. The psychiatrist then has some sort of threesome (I’ll spare you the dull details) with some weird girl who’s into pain, and hypnotises her, because he wants to explore the nature of reality and therefore the perception of pain, as per Freud’s original research into psychosomatic symptoms, or whatever.

Our wise narrator concludes from all this – or rather, has concluded all along – that reality is just a construct that surpasses human understanding, and means different things to different people. Society, however, apparently wants people to exist in boxes of predefined roles. This message is packaged, unbelievably, in Einstein’s theory of relativity:

Why, when the natural world is relative, does human society try to make it absolute?

It is such a completely pointless philosophical discussion, which wouldn’t matter if it wasn’t something French people took so seriously, and keep thinking themselves original for doing so. Surely a combination of Levi-Strauss ascertaining that you can’t take yourself and your preconceptions out of what you observe, and a multitude of academic fields studying brain function in various different ways, must have suggested to this film-maker that their ideas were far from new.

Surprise-surprise, the movie was “highly rated” on lovefilm.com, I can’t imagine why. Still, the dialogue is much more formal than usual, which sounds nice and reminds me why I studied French; “orgeuil”, what a wonderful-sounding word.

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