Hello again, my darlings!
Here is my second submission for the #FranceOnFilm Blogathon, on the second day of the event we will focus on France as a subject, cultural products from countries other than France where France plays a significant role.
So I decided to have a little fun and talk about my favorite Francophile, “Simone” from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.
When we first meet Simone, she is a waitress at a truck stop diner called “The Wheel Inn”. Simone is a small town southern girl, with a psychotic lug for a boyfriend named Andy. Simone speaks very poor French, but she dreams of living in “The City of Eternal Love, Paris”. Sadly, this a dream she knows will never come true. Through her brief friendship with Pee Wee, she finds the courage to make her dreams come true.
Later we meet her again in San Antonio, she has left Andy and is on her way to Paris, finally at the end of the film we see her once more, her French has improved, and she is in a convertible with her new boyfriend “Pierre”!
Simone’s story represents the love affair many American audience members have with France. I remember taking French in high school (before transferring to Spanish), and our teacher “Mme. Marron” (in case you did not study French, translates to “Mrs. Brown” in English) was obsessed with France, like Simone.
From that class, I developed a wonderful mental vision of France, which mostly consisted of landmarks, bicycles, and berets. For many people, France is not a country, it is a symbol.
Filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard railed against this glorified vision of France (see my previous post on Une Femme est une Femme). I understand Godard’s perspective, I grew up in a “tourist town”. It is easy to become disenchanted with the traffic, the gawkers, or people wanting to take a picture with you because you are a typical person from that area. It is a weird thing to deal with on a daily basis. You go out of your way to avoid the exact reasons why the millions of “Simones” in the world keep coming there.
Yet, I wonder if by avoiding the very thing that attracted the tourist hordes if I missed the magic.
That is what makes cities like Paris, so wonderful. You can find what you are looking for, whether it is “La Vie en Rose” or authenticity. It is a city where magic can happen, whether you are seeking intellectual stimulation, creative inspiration, or romance. It is a symbol upon which we may graft our own hopes. As tourists, we will experience what we chose to experience.
Perspective is a funny thing.
While Simone’s journey, may not be an authentic journey, it is a distinctly American impression of a Parisian journey. Taking her from the middle-America small town to the most glamorous city in the world, a dream many small town girls share.
I love Simone’s story arc because it is simple, she goes to Paris and she finds what she is looking for. I imagine her journey to Paris was like a 1950s American musical.
Simone had an impact on my personal vernacular, saying “Au Revoir, Pee Wee” in a southern accent is a thing in my family. Simone’s story is one of Pee Wee’s many encounters, (getting ten minutes, max) in the film but her story adds heart to the film and it is one of my favorite parts.
This post is my second advance installment for The France on Film Blogathon, which officially runs January 8-9! Please be sure to come back tomorrow and Saturday and follow along as the blogosphere explores the wonders of #FranceOnFilm!
À bientôt, dearies!