Saturday, October 18, 2014

17 Girls (17 filles) 2011

Maybe the French aren't so sophisticated after all.

In Massachusetts, there was a high school. They usually had about five girls a year get pregnant. But one year, there were eighteen of them. So these poor girls formed a support group for themselves. The local media jumped on this and falsely claimed that they had a "pregnancy pact", that the eighteen girls had intentionally become pregnant so they could all have their babies together.

The 2011 French movie, 17 Girls (17 Filles) was based on this misinterpretation of events.

The movie is set in a town on the west coast of France. The French girls are lined up in their underwear in the hallway of their school. One by one, they go in to see the doctor. They're weighed and measured.

"I think I'm pregnant," a girl tells them.

She's the leader of the cool girls. She tells her friends that she's going to have the baby and keep it. It will be "cool", she says, going to high school with a baby. And soon, the others decide to do the same. They'll be free and get respect for a change. They can become legally emancipated, get an apartment and all live together with their babies. The babies will be the same age, so they'll go through school together in the same grade, they'll dominate the place.

One of the uncool girls who was always trying to join their group now does so by getting pregnant.

When parents demand the school do something, the nurse suggests they provide contraceptives.

"Why don't you get them a hotel room while you're at it!"

"They use drugs anyway---maybe we should hand those out, too!"

The school makes the kids watch a film showing the horror of childbirth. I saw one of those in junior high school. I think we played it much cooler than those French teenagers, at least until they got to the placenta.

"They think they can scare us!" says the leader of the girls.

The ringleader is expelled from school, something I don't think they could get away with here even if she were walking around convincing other girls to get pregnant.

The boys figure out what's going on and start refusing to sleep with the girls. One girl has trouble finding a boy even when she offers to pay them.

There's an Afghan war veteran walking around assuring people he doesn't have PTSD.

I don't think France ever comes out looking very good in the movies. Look at The 400 Blows, or just about any French crime movie. The French carried out their last execution by guillotine in 1978. While we were watching Star Wars and Smokey and the Bandit, they were chopping off people's heads. In the '50s, French doctors did experiments to see how long people remained conscious after being decapitated. They didn't abolish capital punishment until 1981.

Look at the subway chase in the movie Diva--as a cop runs after the fleeing postman, his policewoman partner yells, "Don't shoot!" Do French police have to be told not to shoot a fleeing unarmed person who, if I remember correctly, wasn't even suspected of a crime?

Look at Mr Hulot's Holiday. A French mother slaps her kid in the face for no reason.

I've never seen France look so bad. From what we see of the town in this movie, you'd never want to live there. All we see is relatively new, not very attractive buildings. My school cafeteria had more charm than theirs, except they had pitchers of milk on each table. The cool girls weren't as cruel and callous as the British, but they were worse than Italians or Norwegians.

The movie was pretty good, though, and, for a French movie about high school girls setting out to get pregnant, it was remarkably inoffensive.

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