Take a look at the two movie posters above, and ask yourself, “Which one would a nine-year-old boy want to watch?” Lucky for me, my son refused the one he called, “a rich people movie”.
While cruising the old movie channels on TV this evening, I came across Audrey Hepburn’s 1954 film, “Sabrina”. A lowly chauffeur’s daughter, Sabrina goes away to cooking school in Paris and returns the belle of the ball. It’s one of many films, most starring Audrey Hepburn, to sell me on France’s power to make dreams come true (mostly dreams involving being possessed by wealthy men).
Running across the movie as I come to end of my first week in France (In Tacoma), I felt certain I had to watch it, for old time’s sake. For the nostalgia. Even though MFK Fisher warned me in “Provence, 1970” that nostalgia is a lie, I still felt drawn to watch Audrey Hepburn pine away in Givenchy couture and be pursued by a man THIRTY YEARS older than her.
After only a few minutes of the movie, my son writhed in his chair, complaining. I pointed out that Sabrina was in love with a man who didn’t notice her. He said, “I can TELL, but why they have to take so long about it??”
I tried to think of a way to pitch watching the movie, for the tradition, or for the romance, or…
The longer the opening scene went on, the harder time I had making a case for the film. When Sabrina spied on the playboy brother making the moves on a socialite across the indoor tennis court, my six-year-old daughter cried out, “I don’t LIKE that guy!” I wanted to high-five her. “YES,” I said, “he’s not a nice guy”. Then I really started to think why I wanted to invest any more time in outdated notions about the value of a woman’s education.
I tried one last time to explain the movie’s central tension, “So, she can’t fall in love with him because he’s rich and she’s just a servant’s daughter.” My son said, “That’s why I hate rich people movies!” Finally, I had to agree with him.
Just then, my husband swooped in – like a pterodactyl – with a movie he’d been waiting to watch on Netflix.
Within the first few minutes, we see our early 20th century writer and adventurer heroine commanding a camel, cracking an Egyptian code and running headlong into an occupied sarcophagus calling out, “Dan mes bras!”, or “Into My Arms!”
My son cheered and said, “Now THIS is the kind of movie I like. She’s cool.” Adèle Blac-Sec didn’t just entertain a picky kid, she rescued me from my Hollywood trance. After so many years, here was a woman I could admire for more than her tiny waist and alluring charm.
Adèle smoked, drank, shot, cavorted with dinosaurs and mummies, and only read her mail in the bath. Where was she when I was a kid? When I was forming those dreams about what I could be?
She was in the comics. In fact, her comic book is now published by Seattle-based Fantagraphics, translated by the late Kim Thompson, who I interviewed as a radio host back in 2003.
This evening it’s wonderfully liberating to imagine riding the back of a resurrected dinosaur to save the sister who suffered for my brash competitiveness. It sure beats trying to stir up romantic feelings for a frowny Bogart. And, if I weren’t in France (In Tacoma), I’d probably have missed all of this. I’m so glad I came.
I can’t wait to find out what other treasures await me here. Dans Mes Bras!