My dear friend, Chad, and I decided to start a French Club. Cleverly, we named it Le Club Français (even though Ron had suggested we call it Bored White People Club), and came up with a list of by-laws and a plan for our weekly meetings. We had decided to get an authentic French meal and watch a French film each rendezvous, speaking only in French throughout our time together. Our goal was to improve our current French-speaking skills (we both studied in college) and maybe, one day, eventually get some opportunity to use them. (Quebec? Burkina-Faso? Vanuatu?)
Last night was the first meeting (la première réunion ?) of The French Club and we made it halfway through dinner before we were exhausted. Which was really too bad, because our waitress had gone to a French school in Africa (I should’ve asked her where in Africa, but I was too paralyzed by my lack of vocabulary) and had agreed to speak only French to us throughout the meal (le repas?).
|Outside Cafe Stella. C'est tellement mignon!|
We ate at Café Stella in Silverlake and were surrounded by other people who were trying too hard at life, so it should’ve been easy to fake our way through dinner and not care what anyone else thought. But we sounded and looked like deux imbéciles, or at least I did because it turns out Chad is actually quite amazing at French. He underplayed it because he’s a sweet guy, but he was basically playing basketball with a midget. I was the only moron at the table, and I was looking up every other word to the point where I was dying for the waitress to replace the bread so I could stuff something in my mouth and avoid talking. I was mostly speaking Franglish anyway.
|Chad and me at dinner circa 1933. The French don't smile for pictures.|
Luckily, Chad got tired of trying to carry me through the conversation (and pausing every few seconds to explain to me what he'd said—which was absurd in itself, as we’d agreed to speak in French accents when we were speaking English. I know, ridiculous, but remarkably enjoyable.). So we lapsed into English after the cheese platter (plateau de fromages) and started rewriting our charter. Now it will say that we must improve our language skills with each meeting and try to get a little farther into the evening each time before resorting back to English. Phew!
|Plateau de fromages.|
After dinner we watched Delicatessen,** which everyone says is a wonderful film, not to be missed! And I like the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet (I’ve only seen three: Amélie, La Cité des Enfants Perdus, et Un Long Dimanche des Fiancailles). But Delicatessen made me feel even dumber than dinner had. It seemed like one of those bizarre, dark-comedy French films (which are quite a few) that seem to rely too heavily on my ability to 1) suspend my disbelief and 2) infer meaning from an overabundance of visual symbolism. That said, it was pretty funny for the most part and I always feel smart after I watch film in another language. Like maybe I’ve added a few wrinkles to the gray matter.
|Jean-Claude Dreyfus as Clapet in Delicatessen.|
We haven’t decided on a location or a film for our next meeting, but suggestions are always welcomed and appreciated. And even if I never get any better at French, I’ll have a good time hanging out with Chad, who is incredibly patient with my insufficiencies (Word is saying I made up the word "insufficiencies." I always said I couldn't spell, so I'm leaving it. Sounds good to me. And if it isn't a word, it should be).
**Delicatessen (Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro, 1991).