Ahh, the French!
I adore them. Their art, their culture, their contributions to the enlightenment of our world. Hate me all you want, but I never felt prouder of Donald Trump than I did when he refused to shake Angela Merkel’s hand for a photo op. Trump didn’t want to get France’s blood all over his hand, and Merkel’s mitts are positively oozing with the spilt plasma of Europe.
I was reminded of another handshake incident, and in turn, a man who embodied one of the greatest aspects of France.
The Gallic Shnoz.
Charles de Gaulle was a French leader and statesman, who, in 1943, shook hands with his rival Henri Giraud before Winston Churchill, as a show of unity. A show is all it was. General Giraud had a perfectly jaunty mustache, but his nose paled in comparison to de Gaulle’s. Look at it in the photo above. Look at it! Gaze in wonder!
Gee, do you think Charles de Gaulle was an authority on wine? I bet he could smell it even if it was bottled and in a cellar. Before you ask about this great Frenchman’s outlook on cheese, let me share a quote:
Between 1946 and 1958 the Fourth Republic had 24 separate ministries. Frustrated by the endless divisiveness, de Gaulle famously asked “How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?” [Wikipedia]
Only one actor has ever successfully portrayed the French Inspector Clouseau, and that was Peter Sellers, in Blake Edwards’ original Pink Panther films. Granted, Sellers was one of the most brilliant comedians in history, the like we’ve not seen since, but he had a leg (or nostril) up on the competition thanks to his convincingly Gallic face.
He looks just like Charles de Gaulle.
No contemporary comedian sports a honker like that, except Steve Carell, and his is Roman. Steve Carell has a legendary nose. It’s a gift from God. Let no smaller-shnozzed folk tell you differently.
From the moment Peter Sellers walked on-screen in that trenchcoat, everyone took him as French, before he’d even uttered a syllable. It was as plain as the nose on his face.
France gave us what I laughingly call my favorite movie, Irréversible. Directed by the controversial Gaspar Noe, it is a brutal deconstruction of the futility of violence and revenge, and our own motives for watching a revenge, as the audience. Astonishingly, it stars a husband-wife couple, in the form of Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel. Cassel isn’t just lucky because he bagged Bellucci, an excruciatingly desirable female. Vincent possesses an impossibly Gallic head.
As he searches Paris for the man who raped and beat his girlfriend, Cassel’s head and face appear fully weaponized. He descends into a hard-gay S&M club like he is entering Hell. His expression is the embodiment of vengeance. Indefatigably French.
That special form of nasal determination is on full display in Triplets of Belleville (2003), which I truly consider to be one of the top ten animated films ever produced. Writer/director Sylvain Chomet imbues the movie with endless flourishes of Gallic charm, faces lushly caricatured in the manner of Honore Daumier. Madame Souza, the titular Triplets, and Bruno the fat dog get all the attention, but it’s Souza’s cyclist grandson Champion who looks the Frenchiest, without speaking a word (until the end, when the entire audience bursts into tears).
And oh my god, the waiter! The French waiter!!!
Behold, the subtlety of expression and movement, the astute yet lovely design, the beauty of the timing: French. All France. No American can or ever will create an animated sequence like this. Jamais!
Often, when the philistines are too numerous, I look to the French, as many have before me. France is our ally in fine art. The old line about how the French love Jerry Lewis rings true because Lewis had the same joie de vivre that they do. The overwhelming desire to enlighten, even in the darkest moments. The esprit inextinguible. Love, in the face of Death.
I’ve never seen Paris. I hope, someday, that beloved City of Lights returns to its former glory and strength, so that I can. The world must never see the dimming of that glow. Jamais. There must always be a Shnoz like Charles de Gaulle’s.
Vive la france.