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Why are so many French films such unremitting rubbish? Out of a sense of loyalty, I keep going to the cinema in the hope of being surprised -- but I so rarely am. Even the films one feels relatively positive about -- like "Welcome" (see recent post) -- aren't, if we are honest, particularly brilliant. Just ok. They pass muster. Most films that I see are simply bad. A couple of weeks ago, it was the new Daniele Thompson-- "Le Code a Changé". Everything that people complain of in French film was here concentrated in two hours of tedious, self-regarding bilge. Yet another film about relationships in the dinner-party land of the Paris in-crowd. No plot. Suddenly one couple is getting divorced, and another couple is getting it together. No explanation. No development of character. No acting even. The actors just recite the lines. How on earth does French cinema get away with it? A few days later, another disappointment. "La Journée de la Jupe" features in the next edition of Champs-Elysées, so I thought I would give it a look. The beautiful Isabelle Adjani plays a French literature teacher whose class of banlieue thugs is so out of control that one day she flies off the handle and takes them hostage. It's a nice premise for a film. Politically very incorrect, which is always a good thing. And at the start, there are a couple of good moments -- like when she holds a gun to the head of a particularly nasty individual and demands that he repeat Moliere's real name (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, since you ask). But once again, it all collapses.

The plot goes nowhere. There is absolutely no suspense. And Isabelle Adjani is hopeless. She wanders about the room with her revolver, swinging vertigineously between the only two emotional registers she seems capable of: lost and silent, then angry and loud. My friend John Lichfield of the Independent backs me up on this. He saw Adjani in the theatre a couple of years ago -- one of those performances that the critics fawned over -- and his view was simple: she cannot act. "It's emperor's new clothes," he told me. "No-one dares to say what is staring them in the face." And here I think is the nub of it. The French cultural commentariat is complicit in the marginalisation of French culture. It is all back-scratching and aren't-we-great and friends together in Paris dinner-party land. No-one ever says anything is bad. Even when 'bad' doesn't begin to do justice.


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