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Indelible International - Monde, Je T'aime

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Monde, Je T'aime
   Ally Pirret
   June11, 2011
  

 

Here at Indelible, we love movies about people venturing abroad, whether they are a whip-wielding archeologist, an English podcaster with a head like a fucking orange, or (my favorite) a fanny-pack-clad mail carrier from Denver. Said fanny-pack enthusiast, played by the brilliant Margo Martindale, holds a special place in my heart. Here’s why.

In 2007, several months before I was to leave Buenos Aires and return to the United States, I went to my favorite two-screen 1970s-style theater to see Paris, Je T’aime. It is a collection of eighteen vignettes that all take place in Paris. Having never been there, I found it enjoyably sweet in a generic sort of way until the last segment, entitled “14th arrondissement.” It is narrated by Martindale’s Carol, an endearingly awkward middle-aged woman from Denver who finally travels to Paris after years of French lessons. In horribly-accented French, she describes her trip, her expectations thereof, and re-imagines her life in a Parisian context. While in Paris, she eats Chinese food, solemnly wears her fanny pack, and confuses Simone de Beauvoir with Simon Bolivar. But what struck me most about this little seven-minute film is when Carol, resting on a park bench, describes a sudden sensation that washes over her. 

“Sitting there, alone in a foreign country, far from my job and all the people I knew,” she says, “a feeling came over me… But I didn’t know what it was. Maybe it was something I had forgotten. Or something I had missed my whole life. I can only tell you that at the same time I felt joy and sadness. But not a great sadness. Because I felt alive.”

As the credits rolled and the lights came on, I thought, well, that’s it. She’s summarized my entire study abroad experience in thirty seconds. It was similarly filled with loneliness, a distinctly American brand of awkwardness, questionable language skills, self-discovery and indescribable feelings of simultaneous joy and sadness. Watching Carol’s face fall almost imperceptibly as her carefully constructed French question is countered with an automatic English response instantly brought to mind the dozens of times I’d mentally prepared a Spanish script, only to be met with equally earnest English. Seeing a personal experience shared by others (be they fictional characters or fellow ex-pats) makes its most unpleasant aspects more bearable, and its most rewarding aspects more gratifying. 

You can stop reading this now and scroll up to watch “14th arrondissement.” While you’re at it, you should probably watch Martindale kill it as the matriarch of an Appalachian crime family on the second season of “Justified,” too. She’ll break your heart both times.

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